Lana Del Rey
There’s a school of thought that says “Ultraviolence” is an unnecessary album. Del Rey herself seemed on the fence about making any more music after 2012’s “Born to Die,” and, indeed, many people found that album to be nothing more than a one-trick pony, albeit with a single trick that spawned seven successful singles.
But “Ultraviolence” exists, and the world is a better place for it. If you’re looking for a dramatic departure from the formula contained within “Born to Die,” you’re not going to find it. If, however, you’re looking for an artist who’s taken the one thing she does well and made it even better, then this is your lucky day. All the themes that Del Rey seemed to bludgeon to death in her previous album are back, but with more subtlety and grace. “Ultraviolence” still broods in the slightly weird idiom of Del Rey’s character. But at least now it’s brooding with some style. CV
Imogen Heap is tapped out. The English singer-songwriter — at times capable of moments of pure brilliance — doesn’t seem to know where to go next. The result, “Sparks,” is a disconnected hodge podge of sounds and ideas, with nothing really tying it together into something that most humans would consider to be a listenable format. Apparently devoid of genuine ideas for songs, Heap has instead fallen back upon gimmicks. She’s been gimmicky before, of course: the 2005 brilliantly beautiful single “Hide and Seek” is recorded entirely with a vocoder. But it’s always been in service of something else, something bigger, or at least fully formed in her own mind. “Sparks,” on the other hand, feels increasingly like Heap just throwing shit at a wall. Sometimes, when a musician’s hubris gets the best of him or her, the devoted listener can strip away some of the excess on an album and still find something to love. But the more you strip away from “Sparks,” the more disappointed you’re going to become. CV