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Lana Del Rey - Blue Banisters (Album Review)

Thursday, 11 November 2021 Written by Simon Ramsay

Over the course of seven idiosyncratic and wilfully enigmatic albums, not to mention a bursting landfill of thinkpieces deconstructing her every move, it’s become increasingly clear Lana Del Rey, or rather Lizzy Grant, is a very complex person indeed. Introspective, initially impenetrable and as flawed as it is wonderful, ‘Blue Banisters’ shines new light on one of modern music’s most confounding and magnetic performers.

“This record tells my story and pretty much nothing else,” Del Rey recently revealed about her second release of 2021. Much like its predecessor ‘Chemtrails Over The Country Club,’ which spun tales about Grant’s early life with refreshing singer-songwriter candour, ‘Blue Banisters’ adopts the same first person approach, dispensing with retro touchstones in favour of contemporary reference points such as the Black Lives Matter movement, quarantine, and iPhones. 

Tentatively disclosing parts of her origin story over low key, spacious but intimate sonic beds, these songs are a world away from the widescreen melancholic soundscapes conjured by ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell.’

Although strings and jazzy horns occasionally flavour the predominantly piano and acoustic guitar-based compositions, they’re employed to support dexterous, crystalline vocals that, wedded to enchanting melodies, express labyrinthine emotions.

Throughout this record, informative contradictions bubble away beneath key recurring themes. Text Book, Violets for Roses and Black Bathing Suit find a songwriter needing to be seen for who she is, stubbornly demanding acceptance and steadfastly refusing to be anything but herself, despite the issues it creates. But we also know, for all her denials, that Grant has previously conjured numerous Del Rey-shaped smokescreens to cloak her identity and prevent us from knowing too much about her.

Elsewhere, the title track concedes the gut-wrenching fear she’ll never be happy and creatively potent. Del Rey may yearn for some form of utopia on stunningly sweet gem Arcadia, but demands the suffering that bore Wildflower Wildfire and Beautiful to be her best artistic self. It’s refreshingly candid and enlightening, but for every expository move forwards, some defensive sleight of hand manoeuvres follow to disguise what’s real and what’s not.  

Lyrically abstract cuts like Living Legend, Thunder and Cherry Blossom are less insightful and find her doomed screen siren persona/armour returning as she defaults to rote tales of relationships and addictions. Featuring Miles Kane, Dealer might be the album’s best song. It just doesn’t belong here. Del Rey’s wail is astonishing, but too theatrical and overwrought, making it seem like the performer has returned, and the confessor vanished, when there’s clearly much left to tell.  


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