Only seven months passed between Lana Del Rey’s latest album, “Blue Banisters,” and her first 2021 project, “Chemtrails Over the Country Club,” but it felt like an eternity.
The new album came with a famously terrible selfie cover.
We didn’t get any full singles ahead of the magic date, but we did get three songs out of nowhere, each with a different filter of the cover. “Wildflower Wildfire,” “Text Book” and “Blue Banisters” seemed to confirm that, unlike certain projects in the past, Del Rey would stick the landing and release the album on the right date.
That’s fine though, everyone makes mistakes. I forgive her. But if she’d missed the new Oct. 22 date that I somehow didn’t hear about until just a few weeks ago? I would’ve thrown hands.
So here we are. The album cover is no longer a selfie but Del Rey sitting nestled between two German shepherds in front of a banister that is not blue.. The three singles join “Arcadia,” released Sept. 8, and 11 other songs to round out the hour-long project.
Less stripped down than “Chemtrails” and less groundbreaking than “Norman Fucking Rockwell,” “Blue Banisters” won’t make waves in the Lana universe. She’ll still be remembered for “NFR” critically and “Born to Die” commercially, and I accept that.
But boy am I glad this album exists.
“Blue Banisters” sees Del Rey at her most vulnerable. On “Wildflower Wildfire” (my favorite track), she croons to a lover who asks questions about her past. “My father never stepped in when his wife would rage at me” she sings over piano and a building rhythm.
The singer’s complicated relationship with her family makes a frequent appearance on the album. In “Black Bathing Suit,” a song that won my heart the second it opened with crows instead of instruments, she reveals, “I’m not friends with my mother, but I still love my dad.”
Her parents aren’t the only family members featured on the album. Her sisters help paint her banisters blue in the title track, an ethereal and weightless song.
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For a track that opens with a line about a John Deere tractor, it packs a punch. I didn’t anticipate getting emotional about Lana’s home renovations, but I’m not mad about it.
I’m always down for a floating song, but “Blue Banisters” may have just a few too many.
I’m not going to listen to “Thunder” or “Cherry Blossom” when I revisit the album. In the past, Del Rey has released some of the most intricate and well-written ballads ever, but these are washed out and devoid of interest.
There are ballads to cry to and there are ballads to fall asleep to. I want the former.
Two standout upbeat songs, “Interlude - The Trio” and “Dealer,” see Del Rey inject more energy than she could muster on “Chemtrails.”
She doesn’t sing on “Interlude - The Trio.” It instead features strings and a trumpet a la Western shootout before offering a beat drop, the likes of which she hasn’t delivered since God knows when.
I’m in love with it.
I’m a big fan of artistic evolution, but I do miss Del Rey’s early days when she could put a sweeping ballad like “Video Games” two tracks away from a high-octane song like “Off To The Races.” The interlude felt like a glimpse at that Lana, but I wish we got more than a minute and 15 seconds to see her on this album.
“Dealer,” though, is Lana like we’ve never heard before. Accompanied by Miles Kane, she belts out the chorus over a dry drum beat and maybe an organ.
If the proverbial dealer in the song isn’t a metaphor, it seems Del Rey has done more drugs than I thought, as she wails “I gave you all my money, gave you all my money,” louder and louder.
On a couple of the songs that are just a singer and a piano, there’s still a bit more interest than a traditional piano ballad.
“Beautiful” lets the keys twinkle instead of sitting on chords, and the album’s closer, “Sweet Carolina,” gives a sweeping countermelody in the background as Del Rey channels “The Sound of Music” on the chorus in an ode to her sister, Caroline.
Like all siblings, though, Del Rey couldn’t resist taking a dig at her sister in what may be her most memorable lyrics since “Cola.”
“You named your baby Lilac Heaven / After your iPhone 11 / ‘Crypto forever’ screams your stupid boyfriend / Fuck you, Kevin.”
I don’t know what Kevin did, but I’m on Lana’s side.