Album Review: Blue Banisters
Lana Del Rey, despite proclaiming this release to be her most personal yet, manages to remain as elusive as ever on her eighth studio album, Blue Banisters. Touching on themes of betrayal, love, and current events such as the pandemic, the 36-year-old New York native proves her talent with this piece of work.
With this being her second album of the year, any fears that it would dilute her previous hit Chemtrails over the Country Club are quickly forgotten when listening to the album.
The opener Text Book begins with an alluring instrumental, feeling both overwhelming and minimalistic at the same time. The high production quality of the album is made evident here, with the rolling beat providing the perfect backdrop for lyricism that will be familiar to many Del Rey fans.
Another song from the album that captures the excellency of the production is the muted piano ballad Cherry Blossom, with a plucky piano instrumental mixed to perfection.
It is perhaps the track If You Lie Down With Me, however, that most clearly demonstrates the quality of mixing on the album. The crisp blending of Del Rey’s self-assured vocals and the Americana-inspired instrumental is absolutely sublime, and the cohesive vision for the project is made clear.
The album has an incredibly cinematic feel, with Arcadia continuing the injection of the Americana aesthetic felt throughout the tracklist. The song, a love letter to the States, wouldn’t feel out of place in a montage found in a tragic indie romance film, and the brass selection heard in the backing of the piece feels reminiscent of a national anthem.
Recommended Reading: Review of ‘Chemtrails Over the Country Club’ by Lana Del Rey
The cinematic quality of the album is continued on tracks such as Violets for Roses and Beautiful, with the latter featuring an intriguing, jumbled piano instrumental that crescendos into a haunting, melancholic extravaganza. On Interlude – The Trio, a strong, pulsating beat creates a western feel, and the soaring nature of Thunder, written in collaboration with The Last Shadow Puppets, could easily be found in a film soundtrack.
Another track on the album written with The Last Shadow Puppets, and one of the overall highlights, is Dealer, which has instantly become a fan favourite – and it isn’t hard to see why.
With featured vocals from Miles Kane, the sluggish yet deliberate beat sets the fatalistic tone for the song, with Del Rey taking on the persona of a broken Southern Belle and practically screaming “I don’t wanna live”. This personal, matter-of-fact lyricism is seen throughout the album, and perhaps no more than on one of her most breath-taking pieces yet, Wildflower Wildfire.
Del Rey, after eight albums, finally talks openly about her tumultuous relationship with her mother over a spiralling soundscape, bitterly stating: “My father never stepped in when his wife would rage at me”. A track laced with poison, the contempt Del Rey has for her mother has never been clearer.
The deadpan lyricism doesn’t stop there, however, with Del Rey displaying almost stoic defeatism on Black Bathing Suit, discussing themes of the pandemic, and death. A spattering of drums and vocal warbles are welcomed, if not slightly unnerving, but add to the overall uneasy nature of the track.
A focal point of the project is Del Rey’s vocal ability, and this can be seen clearly in the titular track, Blue Banisters. Gorgeous, velvety vocals make this one of the more underrated tracks on the album, alongside Nectar of the Gods and Living Legend, which both feature delicate, building vocals showcasing introspective lyricism that would feel at home on her hit 2014 release, Ultraviolence.
The final track on the album, Sweet Carolina, which was co-written with her father and her sister, is perfectly placed, allowing her voice to shine over a sprinkling piano melody.
Simply put, Blue Banisters is a triumph. Del Rey’s ability to perfectly capture emotion and craft eloquent yet stirring songs is to be commended, and will no doubt continue with the release of future albums. If you’re not a fan of Lana Del Rey, you will be after listening to this.