Tuesday, 5 August 2014

FKA Twigs - LP1 Review

Grade - A+

FKA Twigs, the London-Based artist, has dropped her full-length debut and it's nothing short of fascinating. The album has a wonderful trip-hop influence but sounds totally, aurally alien. The tracks are layered deeply with beats and Twig's fading and rising voice. The album sounds terrifying at times, with Twig's sparse voice overlayed by creepy beats. The album is consistent throughout, but there are some highlight tracks, the single 'Pendulum' is fantastic, an alien sounding but riveting song, as is the song Video Girl. One could state many influences on this LP, such as Mariah Carey, Frank Ocean or Mica Levi, but these are very tangible when listening to the record, it sounds completely unique and her own. This album is haunting and unique, there's nothing out quite like it.

The album is currently available to stream on iTunes.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Top 5 Albums of 2014 So Far

With 2014 reaching the halfway mark, there's not better time to assess the year in music so far. To be frank, this year hasn't produced many instant classics yet, and there have been a few disappointments, but its still been a very solid year.

5. East India Youth - Total Strife Forever:
William Doyle, AKA East India Youth's debut album is an impressive display of moody electronica that had me gripped. Many of the songs have a grim, brutal beat but they often reach moments of transcendence which at points, was quite moving. The album also contains some amazing tracks that are single worthy like 'Looking For Someone' and 'Dripping Down'. I look forward to hearing more from Doyle in the future.

Listen: Looking For Someone, Heaven, How Long

4. Sharon Van Etten - Are We There:
Sharon Van Etten's fourth album is an immersive, moving exploration of relationships that is often brutal and raw in its lyrical content. The album contains a multitude of great songs that explore every aspect of relationships, many of which are unflinching in their portray of them. Van Etten's voice is also majestic and often elevates many of the songs, the instrumentals also compliment her voice and are often sparse but effective.

Listen: Taking Chances

3. St Vincent - St Vincent:
St Vincent's fourth solo album (fifth if you count her collaboration with David Bryne) is simply a fantastic, strange pop record. The album features fantastic array of songs like 'I Prefer Your Love' which sounds like a lost Madonna record, or 'Digital Witness', a mirage of all of St Vincent usual musical idiosyncrasies. It's the years best pop record that doesn't sound like one.

Listen: Digital Witness

2. Robyn & Royksopp - Do It Again:
This collaboration between Robyn & Royksopp is a huge departure for both groups in many regards, but the album does retain their respective styles. The album, like St Vincent, is a fantastic pop record featuring a plethora of great songs like 'Do It Again', which is vintage Robyn and 'Sayit', which is an addictive sugar rush! While these songs are great, the songs which bookend the EP are fantastic and drastically different to anything each artist has attempted before. The standout in the EP and current song of the year for me is 'Monument', an epic 8-minute track that has a fantastically epic sound scape and wonderful lyrical content, I can't put into words how great this track is, but it elevates the album from a great pop record into one of the best, most staggering I've heard for a while.

Listen: Do It Again, Monument

1. A Sunny Day In Glasgow - Sea When Absent:
This album is the most delightful, addictive and surprising one I've heard all year, the band's previous efforts, such as Ashes Grammar and Autumn, Again, we're good dream-pop records, but their latest LP is a masterful, harmonious blend of pop and distortion, creating a dreamy effect that I couldn't get enough of. All of the songs are distinct despite having similar instrumental elements, a feat that isn't easy to pull off, especially in the dream-pop/shoegaze genre, as seen with some Beach House LP's which I personally find to get slightly repetitious. The album contains a plethora of standout tracks, 'Golden Waves' which sounds like a Vampire Weekend/Sleigh Bells collaboration of sorts is a track of pure pleasure. 'In Love With Useless' uses distortion to fantastic effect, with the cut off vocals and dreamy instrumentals blending to make a dreamy, epic 5-minute track. Listening to this album is the most fun I've had listen to a record in a while, it's as spontaneous and thrilling as an 'Avalanches' record. This album is, as far as I'm concerned, the album to beat this year!

Listen: In Love With Useless

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Under The Skin Review And Analysis

Grade: A+


Under The Skin, the latest effort from Jonathan Glazer, director of the brilliant Sexy Beast (2001) and underrated Birth (2004), who returns after a 10 year interlude, is a masterpiece of tension and atmosphere. 

The film revolves around the unnamed protagonist, who is described as an 'alien seductress', played by Scarlett Johansson. The film follows her exploits around Scotland where she lures men into her home which appears to take the form of black pit which reaps her victims. The film is a very visually based, therefore explaining it is quite difficult.

The setting of Scotland is a brilliant juxtaposition to the casting of Johansson, an international movie star. Much of the tension in the film arises from the mundane, much of the film consists of Johansson asking for directions and making awkward conversation, it doesn't sound riveting but the strange yet brilliant soundtrack, composed by Mica Levi, makes every action by Johansson seem urgent, and one her motives are known, it becomes classic Hitchcockian suspense with a post-modern twist. At points, tension is created through lack of action, this is most noticeable during a horrifying scene at a beach where a husband and wife get lost as sea, leaving their infant son abandoned. Johansson doesn't intervene and the 'alien motorist' ignores the child completely. The passive nature of the aliens makes them even more terrifying and there lack of empathy more effective. 

Johansson's performance as the alien seductress is subdued and restrained, yet bizarre enough to show she's unfamiliar with humanity. She remains straight-faced throughout much of the movie but she shows glimmers of charm that lead her to luring men successfully. The method in which the film was shot, with hidden digital cameras, evokes an aesthetic similar to Lynne Ramsay's Morvern Callar, also set in Scotland, both films have a social-realist look but Under The Skin is a work of pure sci-fi that doesn't feel like it. This is what makes this film transcend other science-fiction films, it manages to make its ridiculous concepts believable and grounded, assisted by the fantastic use of Scotland as a filming setting.

The film has a very hypnotic effect on the viewer, immersing them in stunning visuals, exemplified by a sequence which shows the protagonists victims after they have been 'reaped', the scene looks beautiful but is also terrifying and ambiguous, alluding to what happens to the victims in this 'afterlife'. As previously mentioned, the mundane setting is not a deterrent but a major tribute that makes the film more hypnotic, the realistic nature makes the effect of the film more powerful. The film's portrayal of humanity through the tracking shots of people walking or montages of people doing shopping adds to the futility of humankind the film explores and, once you've watched the film, the masses of people you encounter each day may be seen in a new light thanks to this wonderfully immersive cinematic journey.

Analysis: (Major Spoilers Ahead)

The film explores themes related the gender throughout. In regards to institutional influence, the casting of Johansson, the 'world's sexiest woman' is a brilliant way to highlight the film's commentary on the female image in the media. The news that this film was going to feature Johansson nude may have ignited an excited response, but the film doesn't glamorize her nudity, instead showing it in a matter-of-fact manor. The 'male gaze' in only used when Johansson is seducing on of her victims, demonstrating a self-aware placement of nudity, the fact that these scenes, for the most part, only feature Johansson in her underwear as opposed to fully nude add to this self-awareness of the film. Glazer's experience in advertising, much of which he did during his 10 year break, suggests he is self-aware of female body image in the media. 

Most of the interest in the protagonist stems from her aesthetic, conversation mostly veers to looks and not about her personal interests, demonstrating the men who talk to her aren't interested in what's 'Under The Skin'. One scene which explores aesthetic is the one where a man with a disfigured face takes a ride with Johansson's character, she finds something aesthetic about him to compliment, his hands. While the scene places the protagonist in a more empathetic light, the obsession with aesthetic and looks is nonetheless shown by this. 

Johansson's character is the only major female character in the film, apart from the scene where she is dragged by a horde of women into a nightclub. This demonstrates that all women in the film are objects of male desire, this is especially relevant in the latter half of the film which is set in rural Scotland. The latter half features a mostly mute Johansson interacting with various men, all of whom end up having some sort of sexual contact with Johansson. Her mute nature show that, again, men are interested in her look as opposed to her personality. Red is a recurring colour in the film, it's most prominent use is in Johansson's lipstick which represents lust and promiscuity, but later in the film it appears to represent vulnerability. This is illustrated during the scene where Johansson is nude, with red lights illuminating the room, she is in a vulnerable post and her posture and body language in a mirror appear to suggest she is critiquing herself and body image, showing that even the 'World's Sexiest Woman' is obsessed with her body. This degrogation of the use of red from lust in the former half of the film to vulnerability in the latter half of the film can be linked to her dissolution of power. In the latter half of the film Johansson's character extracts her power from luring men and victimizing them, but once she abuses this by letting free the disfigured man, she becomes hunted by the 'alien motorcyclist'. This transformation from being in power to being perused is therefore linked to red as they represent different things as the characters position changes.

Johansson's character also possesses innocence which becomes more prevalent in the latter half of the film, most notably during the scene where she engages in actual sex but is surprised by what actually has to happen. This may be a comment on innocence and how this is being corrupted in modern society where everything is overly sexualised and how this affects young people who are facing pressure to be perfect due to exposure to perfect bodies everywhere. This leads to a loss of innocence as they are therefore obsessed with body image, as shown by this scene and the film in general. 

The film may also contain commentary on media perception of poverty. Many of the men in the film are from lower-class background, shown rather excessively and purposefully throughout the film. The depiction of these men as being interested sexually in the protagonist may be a comment on the paranoia imposed by the media regarding the lower-classes as being portrayed as rapists and criminals. The contrast between Johansson and these men is jarring and may be an indication of the film being self-aware of the issue. Whether it be gender or socioeconomic interpretations of Under The Skin, all agree that the film is a complex work of art that is destined to become a future classic.

Written by Sammy Forde

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Orange Is The New Black - Season 2 Review

Grade - A+

Orange Is The New Black continues to astonish in it's second season which, so far, is the best TV of 2014! This season increases the show's scope so secondary characters are fleshed out such as Rosa and Morello, as well as increasing the race related tensions established in the first season. This season also manages to comment on the prison system and focuses on the administration to brilliant effect, expanding the characters of Litchfield even further. Unlike Season One, this season manages to build up to a slow-building climax which makes the season feel more fully formed. Beware of spoilers ahead as I discuss each episode individually.

Thirsty Bird: Grade - A. This episode is the bleakest one the show has ever produced. While many have viewed this as a negative for not providing what we expect, the impact of this episode looms over the rest of the season. The episode's first half is a tense journey with Piper, as she is transported with no telling of where she's going, while there are some moments of humor, the tone of the episode is decidedly dark. When all is revealed that the new location of Chicago is temporary and Piper is simply there for a trial with Alex, the tension alleviates slightly. The twist ending shows again that Alex can't be trusted at all, but it is an inciting end that makes watching the next episode near impossible! The significance of this episode lies debunking the image the first season showed of prison, which is that it was a fun playground full of colorful characters, the bleak setting of this episode establishes the theme of this season that prison is no laughing matter, this is why, in relation to the series, this episode is highly significant.

Looks Blue, Tastes Red: Grade - A-. Now we return to Litchfield, this episode is about Taystee and her relationship with Vee, a mother figure in her neighborhood. This flashback establishes these two characters who become very prominent throughout this season. Like Thirsty Bird, this flashback is better when seen in relation to the rest of the season but it is nevertheless a very entertaining flashback. In Litchfield, an employment fair is taking place, Taystee takes it very seriously with her driving force being that last years winner got a job when she was released. When it is revealed that she wouldn't get the same treatment by Figeruoa, the moment feels as if these women aren't entitled to the same rights as normal citizens. This is, again, a theme that will become prominent throughout the season and while in this episode it is fairly lighthearted, it will become more serious and involving as the season progresses.

Hugs Can Be Deceiving: Grade - A-. The long awaited back story of Suzanne (I can't call her Crazy Eyes after this episode) is finally here and it was...good. The flashbacks we were given were very good actually, but they weren't enough. While they established her background as a bullied girl who didn't fit in, they didn't provide any new information about her character. Despite this, the flashbacks shown were heartbreaking, especially when related to her interactions with Vee. Speaking of, this episode we start to see the manipulator Vee is, she gets Suzanne to retrieve the cigarettes and makes a mother figure of her like she did Taystee. The reveal as to why Piper didn't get into as much trouble as she anticipated was quite a twist and shows the ability of this programme to consistently surprise us. While the back story was slightly lacking, this episode was a blast in Litchfield and the relationships established become pivotal to the later developments in the series.

A Whole Other Hole: Grade - A+. Among the best episodes the show has ever produced, this episode showcased how pivotal flashbacks are in establishing our views of character. Who would have though Morello's story would be so dark and demented. We come to learn that her 'beloved' Christopher was a man she went on a date with one with whom she subsequently stalked and tried to blow up! The way this was revealed was perfect, totally subverting the audiences expectations. This episode also features standout episodes for Rosa who was a bank robber, who would of thought! This demonstrates how this show can represent women as equally terrifying and capable as their male counterparts. This episode also features some humorous human anatomy lessons which is referenced in the title.

Low Self Esteem City: Grade - B-. Any episode after 'A Whole Other Hole' was bound to be a disappointment but this episode was just slightly uneventful and the worst of the season. This time we are 'treated' to Gloria's back story which was very dull and predicable. The flashback format of these stories isn't capable to exploring an issue like domestic violence sufficiently, therefore much of Gloria's back story felt as if it relied on tropes surrounding the subject. This made much of Gloria's back story incredibly dull, and the end of the story is quite silly. In regards to Litchfield, this episode felt like it was establishing things but it wasn't very exciting, Red was setting up her Greenhouse which is as thrilling as it sounds. Overall, while this episode still had all the humor and charm of an Orange episode, it was lacking and felt like a filler episode.

You Also Have A Pizza: Grade - A+. This is more like it! Tensions are rising in Litchfield, Poussey and Taystee are officially fractured, Vee is stirring up trouble and there's Piper's starting her investigation into Litchfield. In regards to Poussey, her back story was another genuinely surprising one, who would have knew she spoke German! This back story was just sweet and lovely, until the end, as is common with these back stories. The romance between Poussey and another German girl who are in a military compound due to their fathers careers seems genuine and, towards the end, it was painful to see it unravel. The honesty in which this show explores sexuality is refreshing, Poussey's sexuality is openly accepted by her father presumably and is accepted widely in the prison, the fact that it isn't constantly referred to and only mentioned where applicable is fantastic! Poussey and the other lesbian characters aren't wholly defined by their sexuality, the audience loves them for them and this attitude needs to become more prevalent in the TV landscape. Vee and Poussey are on opposing sides now as it becomes clear that Taystee is aligning more with Vee. The episode revolved around Valentines Day and the concept of love so its appropriate that it revolves around Poussey due to the loss of her friend in Litchfield and the loss of her girlfriend in the flash back. Larry and Polly have been seeing each other in previous episodes but they finally get together in this episode, it's pretty predictable but hopefully this means more Alex and Piper which, while often devastating as shown in the first episode, it is still one of the most dynamic relationships on the show.

Comic Sans: Grade - B. This episode, like Gloria's, had the disadvantage of being preceded among Orange's best episodes, but Cindy's flashback was just slightly dull despite it being quite funny. Her flashback about her daughter was just a bit boring and didn't provide much insight to her character, the section with her working in an airport was very funny but reinforced her as a one-note character who needs much more development if she's to become a breakout character like some of the other case members. The prison based story was stronger, the deterioration of Cavanaugh, the old woman, was quite heartbreaking and her release on 'compassionate grounds' was brutal as her fate is to most likely die on the streets. This illustrates the running theme of corruption and mismanagement in Litchfield and the prison system in general, although it may have been a bit too on the nose.

Appropriately Sized Pots: Grade - A. Rosa's progression this season has been an unexpected delight, and this episode dedicates its flashbacks to her. Rosa wouldn't have been the most obvious choice of  having an action-packed flashback, but alas she had the most blood-pumping one yet! As mentioned in previous episodes, Rosa was a bank robber, the flashbacks portray her as a femme fatal who was doomed to be widowed. The flashbacks were very entertaining but perhaps a bit too formulaic, but they helped flesh out Rosa into one of the most intriguing characters in the show. Her interactions with the teenager were also fantastic and the 'heist' they conducted together was a wonderful moment in the show. Her delight at finding out he was going into remission was also fantastic and gave her a moment of gratification. There was also a nice focus on the administration which is going to become more important as the season progresses. Tensions are also arising for Piper who is facing widespread opposition over receiving furlough, with a standout scene being when Suzanne throws her pudding at Piper, it demonstrates her new found independence but also sympathy for Piper, something this show doesn't grant much.

40 OZ Of Furlough: Grade - A+. Vee's malice is on full display in this wonderful episode. The relationship between Red and Vee had been rather ambiguous until this episode where the flashbacks are devoted to their relationship. While Vee appears pleasant as she always does initially, the relationship culminates into a shocking betrayal where Red is beaten to a pulp by Vee's 'family'. This scene is particularly shocking as while the series is unflinching in its portrayal of sexuality, violence is often muted, but this scene held nothing and it was all the better for it. The series felt genuinely terrifying and changed the perception that Litchfield would be a fun place to go, an aim this season seems determined on reaching. This episode also chronicled Piper's furlough which was very eventful. She reunited with Larry and had an awkward encounter in the bathroom which ended with him revealing his relations with someone else, although Polly isn't referenced directly. At Pipers' grandmothers funeral, her brother makes a surprise announcement of a marriage between himself and his girlfriend. While not necessary, it was nice to see Piper's crazy family on display and for her to receive some semblance of normality. The episode ends on a rather sombre note as Piper ends up drinking on the bridge, breaking the terms of her furlough, while embracing her temporary freedom.

Little Mustachioed Shit: Grade A. Piper returns to Litchfield after her furlough, while there is some mention of this like her conversation with Red where she lies about going to her sons shop, the focus of this episode ends up being rooted in the past, specifically between Piper and Alex. Preceding even the first episode of this season, the flashbacks explore their initial relationship, it's easy to see why they get on so well and why Piper just can't let go of her love for Alex. Alex is going to become a recurring player from this episode onwards and this flashback helped establish how their relationship could be wonderful as well as toxic. This episode also set up the hunger strike which will become increasingly important in the final few episode, it also found a nice use for So-So who could often become a side-gag. This episode also demonstrated Tasytee and Poussay's fractured relationship as Tasytee disregards Poussay's warnings and aligns with Vee. Another strong episode, this set things up nicely for the remaining episodes.
Take a Break from Your Values: Grade B+. Tensions are once again ramping up in Litchfield, the hunger strike is coming into full swing and measures are being taken by Figeroua to ensure resistance among the prisoners is controlled. Appropriately, we got Sister Ingalls story this episode who became a notorious protester who eventually became ex-communicated for straying to far from Catholic value like taking pride in what she accomplished. This flashback didn't offer much to the plot or character which was problematic, the flashbacks weren't particularly riveting but it was nice to know Sister Ingalls wasn't as heavenly as she appears. Sister Ingalls escalated the hunger strike into something which took the administrations attention, contributing to what would soon be the downfall of Litchfield! This episode also saw the establishment of Safe Place, this was fairly significant as it signals Healy's transformation from absolute antagonist from last season to a fairly sympathetic character, the same could be said of Pennsatucky who is closely associated with the scheme as well and whose menace has been downgraded this season. 
It Was the Change: Grade A+. What a fantastic set-up for the final episode and a great episode in its own right! This episode established Vee as a psychopath which wasn't very difficult to predict, but her flashback was the nonetheless shocking. Vee's treatment of her 'children' as dispensable was shown by killing one of her most beloved drug mules, but not before seducing him which was just as shocking and malicious. This cemented her as completely heartless, proven by the end where, after an apparent reconciliation, she batters Red to a bloody pulp! What an ending! This episode also so the collapse of Figeroua's personal life as she finds out her husband is gay, this combined with the declining conditions at Litchfield and Piper stealing files proving her embezzlement means its not looking well for her heading into the finale. This was an awesome episode, cementing the menace that is Vee, as well as setting up the downfall of Figeroua.

We Have Manners. We're Polite: Grade A+. One whole year till Season 3. Boo. This episode didn't help at all, it was a reminder of how fantastic Orange could be, this episode featured family relationships gone sour, the downfall of a figurehead and the long-awaited death of Vee! Suzanne's relationship with Vee has been manipulative from the beginning but this was the biggest abuse of that relationship all season, it was tragic to see Suzanne cecum to Vee's manipulation, with Suzanne thinking and believing she attacked Red. While she didn't get prosecuted, the effect on her was devastating as seen during the final montage, and by this point she wasn't even aware of Vee's death. Figeroua's fall was another delight this season and her desperate appearance and actions were immensely satisfying. Giving Caputo a blowjob was the finest instance of this, distraught over her husband and begging for mercy she pleasured him, but finding out it made no difference was brilliant, we knew she was going down no matter what! Her ultimate punishment was disappointing but predictable and representative of the prison system who would rather avoid scandal for the sake of justice.  The take down of Vee was a fantastic sendoff for both Vee and Rosa who committed the act, with weeks left to live, Morello left her the keys to the van and she went off, while suspension of disbelief was necessary to enjoy Vee's death, it was still fine retribution for what has been a fantastic but despicable character. Alex's impending to return to Litchfield due to Piper telling Polly to inform her probation officer about leaving the state should provide some fantastic drama for next season which couldn't come sooner enough!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Divergent - Veronica Roth Review

Grade - D+


The latest addition to the plethora of YA novels about a young girl who must overcome a dystopian vision of the future is, unfortunately, a book that lacks the suspense or intrigue that the concept should provide, as shown by The Hunger Games, and is generally a slog to get through. The book revolves around Tris who, through a series of developments, learns that she is Divergent and a threat to the system of government that controls this dystopian future. 

The climax of the book is the main section that provides genuine suspense and thrills, but this is due to the fact that the plot moves out of the previous primary setting of a Dauntless Training Camp, a faction within the novel that Tris joins. It is here that the major flaw in the novel lies, revolving the novel around Tris' progression through the training camp left no room for suspense as many of the challenges she faces were either stimulated or on such as small scale that at no point was there any genuine tension. 

The characters in the novel are also quite problematic. Many of the characters motivations and actions don't ring true, an example being Al's betrayal of Tris. Al had been established as good but gullible character, not one who would double-cross Tris to the brutal extent that he did, this is just my personal interpretation but I don't think it complies with what we have learned about Al's character. 

The relationship between Tris and Four, a Dauntless training leader, is one that starts as a slow-burn but accelerates into undying love for each other. This is problematic as, had Roth developed this relationship further throughout the trilogy as opposed to forcing it at the end of the book, the relationship would have been more enjoyable and tense, like that between Peeta and Katniss in The Hunger Games trilogy.

It's a shame that this book was such a disappointment, while the hype didn't help, had this have been an unknown book, my opinion would have remained the same. Divergent is a novel with little genuine suspense or insight and I have no desire to continue the series.  

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence Review

Grade - A-

Lana Del Rey's new album, Ultraviolence, has been greeted with a fair amount of praise for being an improvement of her previous effort Born to Die which contained a multitude of hit songs but as an album, it wasn't very coherent. Lana Del Rey's new album lives up to this praise, the collection of songs are much more interlinked and brooding than Born to Die. Del Rey's aesthetic may prove off-putting for some, but one can't ignore the musical potential shown on this LP.

Cruel World: Grade - A-. The opening track of the LP is an epic, spaghetti-western infused scene setter for the rest of the album. The beautiful instrumentals combined with Del Rey's languorous vocal delivery make this one of the albums strongest tracks.

Ultraviolence: Grade - A. This track is reminiscent of a very dark, disturbed bond theme. The song has very dark lyrical content that has shown to be controversial. The dramatic piano and synthesizers amplify the bond-like atmosphere created by the song to create an epic and unflinching track that is amongst the album's best.

Shades of Cool: Grade - B. This track's major downfall is it's placement in the album, on it's own the track is almost comparable to the album's very best due to its dream-like instrumental and vocals. Despite this, the song feels repetitive due to its similarity to the previous two tracks.

Brooklyn Baby: Grade - C+. Like Shades of Cool, the placement of the song in the album makes it repetitive. Unlike Shades of Cool, Brooklyn Baby sounds quite bland in comparison to the previous tracks, although, the lyrical content is strong, with lines like ''my boyfriend's pretty cool, but he's not as cool as me'', but the actual song and vocals don't let the lyrics shine like they should.

West Coast: Grade - A+. Arguably the album's best track, the sinister, addictive hook that overlays the song is a very welcome break from the light, dreamy aesthetic of the earlier songs. The lyrics relate to Del Rey's aesthetic of debauchery and fame on the 'West Coast'. The track is also a scene setter for the latter half of the album which becomes progressively bleaker, darker and more cohesive.

Sad Girl: Grade - A. This track employs the best use of Del Rey's vocal abilities, with her voice sounding restrained yet soaring at points. The instrumentals are also highly impressive, they complement the vocals and, unlike many tracks on the LP, are quite varied which helps disband the repetitive feel of the earlier songs.

Pretty When You Cry. Grade - A-. This track has a buildup similar to Sad Girl and could be seen as a sequel of sorts. The song progresses the themes employed on Sad Girl about being let down, a theme relevant to the whole album. While sounding just as good as Sad Girl, the lyrics don't pack the same punch. Nonetheless, the song is another outstanding addition to the album.

Money Power Glory. Grade - A+. Another standout song, this song is one of the most catchiest on the LP, with the understated instrumentals contrasting with Del Rey's vocal delivery but managing to rise to the occasion during the exceptional chorus which proclaims the title of the song. Like Ultraviolence, the song has a bond-feel that makes this track extra stylish and exhilarating. Like West Coast, this song has the greatest single potential and is another sign of Del Rey's progression.

F**ked My Way Up To The Top. Grade - A-. The most tongue in cheek song on the album, this song is representative of how many men wrongfully view powerful women. Del Rey uses the song to explore gender stereotypes and perceived male dependence, a theme that Del Rey refers to throughout the LP and, in my view parodies. The recurrence of female dependence of males throughout the album is one that has caused debate within the music industry, this song and the album in general are, in my view, a critique on this stereotype that has plagued the music industry.

Old Money. Grade - B. This song has beautiful instrumentals but, when compared to the previous tracks, it isn't very comparable. I wouldn't go as far to say it's a filler track, but certainly not a necessary one.

The Other Woman. Grade - A. The closing track takes the best elements out of Born to Die and Ultraviolence to encapsulate the aesthetic Del Rey portrays through the Golden Hollywood Era style instrumentals and vocals. The strength of the closing track rests on its coherence in relation to the rest of the album as it explores the themes discussed in the others songs as well as showing Del Rey's unrelenting desire not to alter her aesthetic. Ending the album with this song demonstrates Del Rey's progression as she crafts a song that captures the styles shown in much of her previous catalog. While not as catchy or memorable as some of the previous songs, it is a bold ending to an exceptional second album. 


Hi! In this blog, I am going to be discussing music, film, TV, books and many other forms of culture. The blog will contain reviews, Top 10s and discussions, among other things. I will also have more personal segments such as traveling experiences and study tips. I hope you enjoy what I have to offer!