Lana Del Rey: Blue Banisters (Interscope) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 29th, 2024  

Lana Del Rey

Blue Banisters


Nov 04, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

For nearly a decade, Lana Del Rey has confessionally traced her movie script migration from the chilly shores of New York to the singed hills of Los Angeles, via miles and miles of county fair and diner-dotted heartland, winning scores of fans and plenty of detractors along her way. While still the expected summerly slice of self-mythologized Americana, Del Rey’s second album in seven months feels somehow different from the rest. The sense of yearning melancholia and damaged nostalgia inherent in each release since her stunning 2012-released debut album, Born to Die, feels more raw on Blue Banisters, pushing itself through the typically neon-projected screen of her previous work, its heartache and disillusionment standing stark, devoid of all pretensions. Here, we find the accomplished indie pop extraordinaire at an inevitable standstill, torn between the temptation of organic harmony and the hyperreal lull of celebrity and millennial existence. Her abrupt abandonment of social media this summer and stripped-down, sun-dried sound of her new release remain indicative of her ultimate decision regarding the former, as Blue Banisters signals this shift.

Opening track “Text Book” is not lyrically unlike those that appeared on 2012’s Paradise EP, with Del Rey offering a bit of self-evaluation as she sings, “You’ve got a Thunderbird, my daddy had one, too/Let’s rewrite history, I’ll do this dance with you.” Melodically, the track sounds at times like a suite of sorts, each section exploring a different subgenre of studio-centric ’60s and ’70s California pop, and although she has attempted such feats in the past, the developed air of cool despondency in her voice makes the experience entirely unique to Del Rey in her current mindset.

The subsequent title track is a moving celebration of sisterhood, Del Rey’s piercing voice taking center stage and providing the track’s predominant melody, as it so often does on Blue Banisters. Songs such as the stunning “Arcadia” find her exploring vocal ranges seldom heard on past releases, as well as casually addressing the critics of the controversy she has courted this year, singing, “They built me up three hundred feet tall just to tear me down,” before promising a prayer on their behalf, but also acknowledging, “You’ll need a miracle/America.”

Many of Del Rey’s aesthetic preferences have persevered over the past decade, namely her sweeping cinematic fixations and rich red, white, and blue bunting-strewn sense of melodramatic glamor. These are most certainly present on Blue Banisters, albeit in muted tones, as Del Rey is now existing in the two Americas—that of the tragic Hollywoodland fantasia around which her marketed imagery had been based, and that of the actual reality, something more akin to Serpico than Rebel without a Cause or Sunset Boulevard—made continually more evident to those once idealistic listeners in recent years.

“If You Lie Down With Me” and the aforementioned “Arcadia” retain Del Rey’s rich orchestral and brass arrangements, while “Interlude - The Trio” samples Ennio Morricone’s iconic film composition. However, in reflecting Del Rey’s search for an eventual return to nature, the majority of the album is scaled back, rootsy, and occasionally bleak, eschewing any pop music pyrotechnics or shallow observations.

“Thunder” and “Living Legend,” two of Del Rey’s most stirringly vulnerable compositions, are among the album’s finest inclusions, while “Nectar of the Gods,” despite having been written much earlier in her career, showcases a fresh side of Lana Del Rey with its rustic picking and ghostly chorus of “ooh-ooh-ooh’s.” The soulfully gritty “Dealer” sets itself far apart with a smoothly delivered Miles Kane cameo, and piano ballad “Wildflower Wildfire” finds her in top form, singing, “I’ve been runnin’ on stardust/Alone for so long/I wouldn’t know what hot fire was.” Collectively, these 15 tracks run circles around last March’s Chemtrails over the Country Club, revealing the artist, love her or hate her, as she truly is.

While the days of Born to Die have long since passed, Lana Del Rey is still seeking paradise, closer now than ever as she turns her search inward, seemingly recognizing that paradise is ultimately found within the best of oneself. Still, if there is indeed a physical Arcadia to be revealed, it has not emerged in its entirety on Blue Banisters. That said, its intoxicating hints are enough to keep seekers thirsty. Until then, we celebrate Del Rey’s glorious return to that place, hoping only that we may one day join her there before it has vanished. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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