Lana Del Rey, Ought, and Dungen 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Lana Del Rey
  • Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey



File next to: Nico, Sarah Vaughan, Lykke Li

Lana Del Rey's songwriting keeps getting better over four albums, even as she dives deeper into opiated dreams of an imagined Hollywood. Where last year's Ultraviolence was all heartbreak and Nina Simone tragedy, Honeymoon is Henry Mancini and Nelson Riddle orchestration. The album carries such weighty conceits as a T.S. Eliot spoken-word piece, while the track "Terrence Loves You" lifts almost shamelessly from Nancy Sinatra's 007 theme, "You Only Live Twice." Del Rey is brilliant taken on her own terms, but when compared to the days when she recorded as Lizzy Grant, she loses beats and a sense of fun. It's appropriate she closes with The Animals' "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" — Del Rey isn't praising or parodying the past so much as reminding us not to get caught up in it. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Ought
  • Ought


Sun Coming Down


File next to: Television, Iceage, Speedy Ortiz

Bands that attempt to emulate very early Talking Heads tend to have truncated trajectories — Tapes 'n Tapes and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! offered wonderful debut albums, only to crash and burn. Ought burst from Montreal last year with the impressive More Than Any Other Day, which captured that early Byrne tension better than almost anyone. A November 2014 EP suggested the band might carry the flag without faltering, and Sun Coming Down places the beats first while preserving their weirdness. There are eight minimalist tracks featuring Tim Darcy's Dadaist vocal repetitions, particularly on the opening song "Men for Miles." But this album rocks harder than the first, more like Pere Ubu meeting Parquet Courts. And the track "Beautiful Blue Sky" is one of the more impressive moments in contemporary art rock. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Dungen
  • Dungen


Allas Sak

Mexican Summer

File next to: Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Pink Floyd

Leader and songwriter Gustav Estjes describes Dungen's music as "fokrockpsych." While that encompasses a wide swath of musical landscape, it barely scratches the surface of Dungen's musical vision. After a five-year silence that left fans wondering if the Swedish group had folded, Dungen returns with Allas Sak ("Everyone's Thing"), their seventh album. The musical motifs on Allas Sak will be familiar to the band's admirers: a jazz-influenced sound that suggests late-period Hendrix and Traffic, with flute and organ textures deftly woven into the mix. The atonal freakouts that peppered earlier albums are dialed back here (with the possible exception of bits of "Sova") in favor of a more melody-focused approach. As with all of the band's material, the songs here are sung in Swedish, so for anglophone listeners, the vibe's the thing. — Bill Kopp


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