Ultraviolence

Lana Del Rey

First thing you’ll notice about Lana Del Rey’s new album is that, like its predecessor, Born to Die, the melancholy Ultraviolence is filled with stories about lousy guys and the ladies who love them, accompanied by retro, down-tempo melodies more at home in a Douglas Sirk film than in the present. Does that mean Lana Del Rey is obvious or tedious? Is Bruce Springsteen, when he sings about the working class?

What Del Rey, her septet, and producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys have done differently is to remove all elements of hip-hop from her self-described “narco-swing” and move to a live, vintage-soundtrack vibe. Pretty When You Cry, Shades of Cool and West Coast have the feel of Chris Isaak at his best, but with a psychedelic ambience for gauzy measure.

In a fragile yet effortlessly breezy voice, Del Rey sings of femmes fatales now willing to dispense with bad men (in Cruel World the singer “shared my body and mind with you / that’s all over now”), even if those women slept their way to the top. Beyond that, Ultraviolence is unobvious, contagious music that sounds like nothing else.

— A.D. Amorosi

Philadelphia Inquirer

Cop Town

Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter wraps an intense thriller around a legacy of sexism, race relations and politics in the engrossing Cop Town.

Slaughter, author of the Will Trent best-sellers, keeps her first stand-alone novel from becoming a history lesson by investing it with a gritty, action-packed plot and strong, believable characters.

Cop Town opens in 1974, when the appointment of a new public safety commissioner in Atlanta — the first black man to hold such a position — promised change. But in the police department’s rank and file, the good ol’ boy attitude thrived. New female recruits were harassed and they were ignored during investigations.

Over the years on the job, police officer Maggie Lawson has become emotionally hardened. Her family threatens to make her quit, even though her brother Jimmy and domineering uncle Terry are on the force. Maggie is then paired with new recruit Kate Murphy, a recent widow from an affluent family. Kate’s arrival coincides with a murder spree by “The Shooter,” who has killed several police officers, including Jimmy’s partner.

Maggie and Kate begin their own investigation, uncovering clues and evidence that the tight network of male cops refuses to acknowledge.

Slaughter’s meticulous research infuses Cop Town with details that illustrate the tension among the officers who resent that their ranks now include women. It’s only when Maggie and Kate work together that they discover their skill in crime detection and their power to change the force — and their own lives.

— Oline H. Cogdill

Associated Press

Fuego

Phish

For a band that made its name on being able to interact with one another while playing live, Phish has had a hard time translating that collaborative interplay in the studio.

They succeed on Fuego, the Vermont quartet’s first studio release in five years. It’s a fun, spirited, rocking record that has a cohesiveness largely lacking on Phish releases in recent years.

It actually sounds like they’re having fun — together.

On the nine-minute opening title track, band members trade lead vocals and harmonize on a driving tune with Phish at its musical best, even though the lyrics are largely nonsensical.

Sing Monica and Devotion to a Dream bounce along with the catchiest of Phish songs. Wombat is a weird stinker in most respects, but so what? It sounds like they were having a blast recording it, especially the references to Barney Miller and its little-remembered spin-off Fish, named after the character played by Abe Vigoda.

The most intriguing song on the 10-track set, The Line, joins the pantheon of rock tunes about dramatic moments in sports history. It focuses on the story of University of Memphis basketball player Darius Washington, Jr. as he steps to the line to take three free throws to decide the 2005 Conference USA tournament.

It’s quirky and rocks at the same time. But that’s Phish. That’s Fuego.

— Scott Bauer

Associated Press