(7.5 stars out of 10)
Lana Del Rey returns with a second album this year, Blue Banisters and her eighth studio album overall in her discography. She had earlier released Chemtrails Over The Country Club in March, and had almost immediately announced another album to be released that same year in a different title of Rock Candy Sweet. After four single releases in “Text Book,” “Wildflower Wildfire,” “Blue Banisters,” and “Arcadia,” and multiple snippets on her now deleted instagram, Blue Banisters was released on October 22, 2021. Lana enlisted the help of seasoned producers such as Mike Dean and Rick Nowels and musicians such as the folk band Kassidy and Miles Kane on production with some even contributing vocals.
“Text Book” opens with Lana’s signature vocals singing about a lover and how their relationship reminds her of tumultuous relationship with her mother and father, and how her father often didn’t intervene when her mother lashed out, in the midst of the social backdrop of 2020. On the title track “Blue Banisters,” Lana vocalizes over a more piano based composition about a former lover in Oklahoma and how most men are intimidated by her high honors. She finds comfort from her pain in the midwest Americana and her friends but is still vulnerable.
In “Arcadia,” she compares herself to the state of California in both its virtues and faults where she uses Arcadia as an escape from her native East Coast in a more soulful tune. “The Trio” interlude has a sample from Italian composer Ennio Morricone being used with an out of place trap beat on the album, a notable instrumental interlude outlier from the more piano and guitar/drum based tunes of other songs. “Black Bathing Suit” has slight reverbed and almost cracking vocals near the end as she tells about her public perception both physically and socially, and how it doesn’t faze her (she even makes money off it), while asking her lover if he can handle all that and her maternal problems.
“If You Lie Down Next to Me” has Lana continuing a relationship with an untrustworthy lover which she knows is a liar but knows he is not over her despite his attempts. The track is notable for having a more horn-based instrumental outro reminiscent of 1920s jazz. “Beautiful” has Lana dealing with her depression in acceptance of her sadness rather than a look for a silver lining with wondrous light piano chords throughout. “Violets for Roses” has Lana finding happiness with the exit of a long, toxic relationship and the recovery of the world overall from the pandemic.
“Dealer” takes a much more soft rock turn as Lana literally screams to get out of a one-sided relationship on the metaphor as her lover and her drug dealer. It contains beautiful backing vocals and sometimes lead vocals from former Rascals frontman and solo artist Miles Kane.
“Thunder” has Lana vocalize over a soulful, bittersweet-like sound compared to the more somber songs; the lyrics are just as somber as Lana speaks of a facade of a happy relationship compared to the actual more lifeless and alcoholic abusive one.
“Wildflower Wildfire” has Lana sing about her past struggles and hospitalizations with alcohol abuse and her mother’s abuse, and with wishing to live free from all of that. “Nectar of the Gods” takes a more melancholic-folkish turn on Lana’s experiences with heroin and how it made her become more erratic and lost than before she took it. “Living Legend” has Lana serenade her early mentor Jane Powers in a song she wrote in 2013 with a powerful instrumental near the seemingly imitating Lana’s voice in a more ethereal like form. In returning to the more piano chords in “Cherry Blossom,” Lana sings about her future child and giving her the idealistic childhood that her mother never gave her, with hints at the child’s possible name. “Sweet Carolina” ends the album beautifully with a lullaby-like song dedicated to her sister Chuck who had recently given birth to a child this year.
Blue Banisters as a whole does contain some repetitive themes in some songs and at least one musically out of place song in “Trio.” However, it is perhaps one of her most introspective albums to date and the themes that are shown are extremely personal looks at Lana’s mental state in her relationships, her outlook on the world and her perception, and her hopes and fears for the future. Overall it is one of Lana’s most emotionally resonant albums in her discography and is one of her most unique and beautiful albums to date.