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New recordings: Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator, Terry Anderson [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: BC-MUS-ALBUMS:PH]

Lana Del Rey

"Lust For Life"


Ever since "Video Games," her 2011 breakout single, there's been a strain of sinister melancholy in Lana Del Rey's music. But the most disturbing thing about her fourth album is seen rather than heard: On the album cover, the Southern California sour puss is actually smiling!

What's the meaning of this? Del Rey has always held a thousand yard stare, communicating a sultry, perennially bummed look and sound. And to be sure, it would be misleading to characterize Lust For Life as a departure. The too-long 72 minute album moves at a mid-tempo pace, and yes, includes a A$AP Rocky and Playboi Kartel-featuring song called "Summer Bummer," a little too deliberately copping her 2012 hit "Summertime Sadness."

LFL maintains a melancholy mood, while nodding to classic rock, duetting with Stevie Nicks on "Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems" and (less successfully) with Sean Lennon on "Tomorrow Never Came." But along with the expected narcotic vibe, there's also an effort to engage with the that comes as a surprise, and relates back to that sly smile on the singer's face. Some of Del Rey's self consciously 'woke' songs are labored - titles like "Coachella - Woodstock In My Mind" and "God Bless America - And All The Beautiful Women In It" don't exactly trip off the tongue. But they do signal a welcome shake up in Del Rey's perspective on the world, and give her music a jolt of energy that's all to the good.

- Dan DeLuca

Tyler, The Creator

"Flower Boy"


Whether throughout his tenure with the Odd Future collective (you might know fellow member Frank Ocean), or alone on a handful of solo albums, Tyler, The Creator has seemingly liked playing the fool with foulmouthed, abstract yet poetic references to golf and wolves, as well as baiting listeners with scathingly misogynistic and homophobic lyrics. But was it all just a setup for the towering rap-rumination of Flower Boy, a comparatively serious look at the various struggles of youth, romance and self-empowerment?

To the free accompaniment of flip-floppy jazz and wonky-hop soundscapes, Tyler raps "Tell these black kids they can be who they are," on "Where This Flower Blooms," as he morphs from being a weird pimp into a butterfly. On the fanciful "Garden Shed," Tyler pushes the cocoon and bud metaphors of human sexual identity with a simple, elegant phrase: "Don't kill a rose / Before it could bloom." This is a far lovelier way out - if out is where he's going - than the sensualist politics of "Foreword" or "Glitter," where Tyler (on the latter) leaves intimate messages for a lover, while (on the former), going back-and-forth between shout-outs "to the girls that I lead on / For occasional head and always keeping my bed warm" and "Next line will have 'em like 'Whoa': I've been kissing white boys since 2004." Such rich gamesmanship and honest confusion has rarely been achieved in rap, rock or soul.

- A.D. Amorosi

Terry Anderson

"Jimmy's Arcade"


Terry Anderson is one of those artists whose songs - think "Battleship Chains" by the Georgia Satellites, or "I Love You Period" by Dan Baird - are better known than he is. That's too bad, because the North Carolinian has long been a terrific rocker in his own right, one who, like the recently departed Chuck Berry, unerringly distills rock-and-roll to its essence and shows what a pure joy it can be.

Jimmy's Arcade finds Anderson at the top of his game. The album is named after one of the funny faux commercials that dot the set and give it its distinctly Southern flavor. But don't be fooled by Anderson's outsize Southern-hick persona and song titles like "Internettin'," "Big Ol' Woman," and "Cornbread." This is a writer whose hook-heavy songs are often hilarious but also slyly smart (we don't invoke Chuck lightly).

You can think of Jimmy's Arcade as a concept album of sorts, one that affectionately conjures a sometimes-wacky world drawn from real life. But there's not a whiff of pretense as this hugely entertaining effort rocks from start to - well, not quite finish. It concludes with "Carl Wilson," a gorgeous ballad about the late Beach Boy that shows another side of Anderson's immense talent.

- Nick Cristiano


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