An album of two halves, LDR’s latest offering doesn’t quite hit the heights of her recent output.
Two years after releasing her magnum opus, Norman Fucking Rockwell, Lana Del Rey is back with her second full length album of the year. After releasing some catchy tracks at the start of the 2010s, the 60s-esque bad-bitch was launched into the mainstream pop scene. Despite a multitude of incredible tracks to her name, Lana arguably never released a great, coherent album until 2019’s triumph, where her experimentation paid off fantastically to produce one of the great albums of the decade.
“Despite a multitude of incredible tracks to her name, Lana arguably never released a great, coherent album until 2019’s triumph…”
At the turn of the new decade, she certainly has been busy. Having already released a solid project in Chemtrails over the Country Club, this second LP of the year comes with a lot of anticipation. On Blue Banisters, Lana has shied away from experimentation and instead returns to many songs originally conceptualised, written and recorded from the 2013/14 period. I much prefer Lana in recent years to the output she was giving us then, and so it comes as no great surprise that a number of the previously scrapped tracks did not quite hit the mark. However, there is still much to enjoy about this album and for the most part I found it a very good listen.
The album starts off on a melancholic banger, Text Book; this is defo one for all those rainy Glasgow winter playlists. A heartfelt lament to her father, its dreamlike aesthetic is one Lana has mastered in recent years. References to her dad’s Thunderbird car, and her overall longing to see her old man, fill the track with ethereal nostalgia.
On the title track, Blue Banisters, Lana recalls the pain of a lost summer love: “Said he’d come back every May / Just to help me if I’d paint my banisters blue.” This isn’t the first time Lana has used the colour to express her melancholy, and the motif returns frequently throughout the album. It’s a nice, subtle artistic stroke, which flows gorgeously into The Trio – a simply mesmerizing interlude. Talk about Ennio Morricone meets Pierre Bourne. A western film trumpet section dueled with explosive distortions of a trap bass, the production is immaculate. I only wish it was longer. A fire in the booth waiting to happen…
“This isn’t the first time Lana has used the colour to express her melancholy, and the motif returns frequently throughout the album.”
Black Bathing Suit sees Lana respond to the body shamers. She begins by detailing the struggles of romance during quarantine. Following this, she moans that she “wants a boyfriend / Someone to eat ice cream with and watch television”, and follows it up brilliantly by reasoning, “Cause my body is my temple, my head is one, too / The only thing that still fits me is the black bathing suit”. Here she references the media, who focused on her slight weight gain, giving them a well deserved middle-finger by explaining that as long as she is mentally in a good place, whose place is it to judge her on anything body image related?
Beautiful’s title does it all the justice it needs. A stunning piano accompanies Lana’s silky, sweet semi-whispers. Again referring to blue, she interchanges the colour from her usual melancholic appliance into a “Picasso”, transforming sadness into beauty, much like a personification of her musical output. “Let me show you how sadness can turn into happiness / I can turn blue into something.” Well, Lana, in that case this track is covered in bright blue paint a billion times over.
The second half of the album, however, departs from its stellar start and delivers some duds. Violets for Roses is one-dimensional and one-paced, and Wildflower Wildfire, by far the weakest teaser track, has not improved from its place on the album. Cherry Blossom failed to make an impression on me and the same could be said for Living Legend, apart from a few seconds where Lana’s voice is distorted to sound like an electric guitar, offering a very brief moment of emotional compellment.
“The second half of the album, however, departs from its stellar start and delivers some duds.”
Shoutout to Dealer for being one of the worst Lana songs I have ever heard. I listened and listened but could not get into it at all. Miles Kane’s feature – the sole one on the album at that – is lackluster, with his singing leaving much to be desired. The backing beat is also bland. But the worst thing has got to be Lana’s awful wailing that she attempts. Avant-garde? I don’t think so – this one’s a straight skip.
Thankfully, Lana redeems herself on the closer Sweet Carolina. It is an emphatic finish. The dreamy harp sounds throughout are tinged with so much emotion and, paired with Lana’s angelic style, it makes me feel as if cherub’s were personally serenading me.
Overall, with some tracks of pure quality, but also a fair few of skippable attributes, Blue Banisters is the definition of a mixed bag. Lana has provided us with another decent album with real highlights, although failing to hit the heights she has proved are in her capabilities.
Top Track: Sweet Carolina