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Blue Banisters, Lana Del Rey’s Second Studio Album of 2021

Lana Del Rey has graced us with her second album of the year—Blue Banisters—and it is even better than her first.

Del Rey has had a busy 15 months. With the publication of her first poetry book, Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, in July 2020, and the release of Chemtrails Over The Country Club in March of this year, there must have barely been time to stop for air; and yet, here we are with another brand-new album.

Released on the 22th of October, Blue Banisters is Del Rey’s eighth studio album and is just shy of 62 minutes in length. With an impressive 15 tracks, Del Rey must have been working hard to produce this just seven months after her previous album. 

Overall, this record is exquisitely crafted to display Del Rey’s poetic lyrics against a backdrop of silky vocals. I also noticed the variety in producers over the albums’ tracks. You can feel the breadth of the album—each song fits perfectly with the last, and yet there are distinctions in style. You can feel that Lana Del Rey was focused on making each song something stand-alone and audibly stunning in its own right.

‘Text Book’

Released before the album, ‘Text Book’ was the first Blue Banisters song that I heard. Built on themes of father-daughter relationships, nostalgia of schooldays, and melancholy. 

This song begins very timidly, the pace is slow and the vocals are reflective but not afraid to tell the truth. There is a lot of self-reflection in here, and a more mature outlook that in Lana Del Rey’s earlier work.

As things progress, the song feels more like an accusation and a mix of inadequacy and desperation—a need to impress somebody who cannot be impressed. It is classic Lana Del Rey in its sadness and its poetic comparisons—“you have a thunderbird, my daddy had one too”. There are a lot of tangled emotions here, but they are pulled out into clear lines that paint pictures of each scenario.

I especially liked the line, “maybe just the way we’re different can set me free”, for its admission that things don’t have to fit perfectly to be something wonderful. Earlier Del Rey work was much better at catastrophising such situations, and this new hint of optimism is calming and satisfying.

‘Blue Banisters’

I love the imagery of this track. There are a lot of mentions of friendships and connections here. You can tell the song is based around real memories. The descriptions of her surroundings and her friends are vivid and it feels as though you are in the room. 

I also enjoyed the call-back to Nikki Lane, who Del Rey collaborated with for “Breaking Up Slowly” on Chemtrails Over The Country Club. There is so much familiarity in the way Del Rey sings about the experiences in this song. It made me feel nostalgic for events I didn’t even witness. The storytelling is immaculate and the feelings are as raw as ever. The track is truly beautiful. 

Musically, the melody is complex with too many syllables in places than what feels natural, but somehow this is pulled off perfectly into something stunning. Somehow making this feel more natural, more like a diary, and more authentic, the way these lyrics are written is poetic and gorgeous.

‘Arcadia’

The newly released video for this song is stunning. I love the yellow of Del Rey’s shirt and the grainy filming of its ending, which reminded me of the photos in her book. Unlike the ‘Blue Banisters’ video, this is a more personal one, largely featuring shots of Del Rey dancing alone indoors.

Arguably the catchiest of the new tracks, ‘Arcadia’ does well, but can feel a little bit cliched. Whilst I love its sound and its message, the metaphors feel more generic than I have come to expect, with the video showing her veins lighting up as she describes a roadmap. 

This being said, I do love the imagery and how connected to Arcadia as a place Del Rey is. Hearing the passion in the music is something that makes it feel so authentic and beautiful. 

This one didn’t feel remarkable when I first heard it, and yet I find myself going back and back until it’s one of my most played songs of the album. (Although, the pedant in me feels the need to point out that arteries do not take blood towards your heart, but away from it.)

‘Interlude – The Trio’

I adore this little interlude. Originally appearing in the ending of ‘Arcadia’s’ music video, the bassline hits hard and feels groovy and cool.

Taken from a sample of Morricone‘s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme, the added bass and percussion that Del Rey has arranged feel so energising to me. As a fan of Morricone’s work in general, I was excited when I first recognised the familiar Western theme. This brief arrangement is interesting and a beautiful use of such an iconic melody.

Throwing this change of style into the mix creates a contrast before we move into the next track. It is upbeat and interesting, and I really enjoy this little break between the first three tracks and the rest of the album.

‘Black Bathing Suit’

The longest song on the album, at five minutes and 18 seconds, ‘Black Bathing Suit’ was a quick hit for me.

I love the ideas and the themes that run through this track. I like the line, “the only thing that still fits me is this black bathing suit”, for what it tells us about the way Del Rey was feeling as she wrote this. We all recognise the feeling of being out of place and of clinging on to something to comfort us in situations where we are homesick or uncomfortable. 

The melody is very pretty, and the message is reminiscent to me of songs much earlier in Del Rey’s repertoire, such as ‘Video Games’ and ‘This Is What Makes Us Girls’ from Born To Die. I love the direction this takes, and it’s a perfect song to come after the brief but energetic interlude.

‘If You Lie Down with Me’

One of the songs that initially stood out to me, ‘If You Lie Down with Me’ is a very pleasant, gentle song. Throughout it feels like something beautiful, and it conjures vivid images and scenes. My favourite is line, “spin me like a ballerina super high”, for the dramaticism and the sense of freedom in the image. It also copies themes from ‘Queen of Disaster’, Del Rey’s now well-known leaked track.

I adore the jazz-feel that comes in in the second half and intensifies near to the ending of this track. I have always loved the way Del Rey incorporates older styles and sounds in to her music, and this song is the perfect showcase of how well this can work.

‘Beautiful’

“Let me show you how sadness can turn into happiness”. Another song displaying the growth and contentment that is present in Del Rey’s music now, ‘Beautiful’ is a demonstration of power and positivity. This was the first song from this album to make me emotional when I listened to it. There is clearly a lot of passion here, and the high piano notes are the perfect accent. 

The lyrics are about somebody beautiful, and it feels as though Del Rey is telling us that there is beauty everywhere, and that people can be so beautiful. She sings, “I can turn blue into something beautiful”, and this feels like a reflection on some of the darker themes in her work. 

The track is slow, as are many on the album, but it is not lacking in any way. I adore the precise piano notes and how perfectly they accent the vocal line. This song is its namesake. 

There are also brief mentions of being changed by someone, something that is explored much more deeply in the next track.

‘Violets for Roses’

Directly referencing the pandemic—or, more accurately, noting the hints of its ending—this song is also close to reality in so many ways. Also referencing a break-up and the way that we sometimes change for people, ‘Violets for Roses’ is an exhibition in finding yourself and finding your happiness. 

“You made me trade my violets for roses” sounds like a representation of what can happen when you give a little in a relationship and end up losing a lot. 

Again, this song feels like a healthy catharsism. Another beautiful metaphor. I think this song will be one that comes into its own when the summer rolls around. It also feels like something of a female power ballad—it taps into themes I have not experienced from Del Rey before, but it manages to do so without straying from the familiar—descriptions of dancing, flowers, and love.

‘Dealer’

A collaboration with Miles Kane, this song is especially distinct from the others. With a lot of repetition and an edge of coolness, I would have loved to have been in the room when this was written. 

There is not much to pull apart here—the concept is simple and this song seems to be more about the feeling that it gives you than it is about the lyrics or the story. There is a mood here and it is of American cities and cool nights and neon lights with music playing out of shops along the street. 

The long vocal notes and the way the vocals are put together but less as a duet and more as a conversation makes the experience feel unique and interesting. I like this track a lot, but it is very different from the rest of the album.

‘Thunder’

I found this track a little forgettable—in fact, when I came to write this I could not remember the melody. Upon a second listen, I realised the song is a little bit disjointed and doesn’t seem to flow as well as all of the others. 

The ideas feel less developed, with less metaphor, less variation, and fewer interesting differences and lyrical relatabilities.

This being said, the themes are compatible—the song tells the story of a man who is “Mr Brightside” when he is out with his friends, but when he is alone with you you are not getting that same side. It holds the familiar tropes in Del Rey’s work of bad relationships, the struggle of self-love, and the questioning over life choices and lifestyle.

Wildflower Wildfire’

Produced by Del Rey herself and Mike Dean, this is my favourite track of the album. I don’t remember being heavily into it the first time I heard it, but over time it has been the song I keep playing repetitively. 

One of the trio of songs Del Rey released five months ago, this song was also my stand-out track of the pre-album releases. Although initially the song sounded unassuming, the more I listened to it the more I grew to appreciate the melody and the smoothness of its sound. 

I find the melody captivating and the held notes show off the talent and the class that Del Rey has. 

The imagery, to me, holds fiery meadows and cosy coffees and autumnal huddling under blankets. Everything feels warm and inviting, and the gentle tones of Del Rey’s voice drift into my skull and wrap my brain in music. 

This song is easily my album highlight, I will be keeping this one on my car playlist!

‘Nectar of the Gods’

A slow start, this song feels very intimate and is nicely catchy once you get into it.  

The calm guitar backing music is very gentle, and, in its simplicity, is not what we are used to. 

Another easy melody, this one has a nice beat and feel to it. I love the line, “I used to dream about people like you, but now I don’t know why”, and again reminds us of the growth and compassion that is present in this record. The way Del Rey’s voice sounds so timeless and wise enchants me. 

This song was originally written to be part of Del Rey’s earlier Ultraviolence album, and has been leaked previously. The decision to include it here fits perfectly, although it also reminds me of ‘Young and Beautiful’, Del Rey’s track featured in The Great Gatsby.

‘Living Legend’

One of my favourite songs on Blue Banisters, this one had me singing in the car. Filled with passion and rich with the desire for its subject, this is an ode to somebody that is obviously close to Del Rey’s heart. 

I love the tone of the lyrics—the appreciation for someone and the familiar vulnerability feels deeply romantic and heavily intimate. 

‘Cherry Blossom’

The shortest song on the album, ‘Cherry Blossom’ is three minutes and 18 seconds—still a good length. I have always enjoyed the length of Del Rey’s songs. Usually around the four or five minute mark (apart from ‘Venice Bitch’, which comes in at a whopping nine minutes and 36 seconds), Del Rey never leaves her tracks feeling unfinished. 

This one in particular has a very catchy quality to it—it’s a song I picked up almost immediately and was singing along.

The nature themes and the freedom that is weaved throughout this track makes it another one that I think will be great to play in the summertime.

‘Sweet Carolina’

A delicate and pretty concluding track, ‘Sweet Carolina’ is a lovely ending. With lots of references to modern technology and phrases like, “crypto forever screams your stupid boyfriend”, this track, like the references present in ‘Violets for Roses’, reminds us that we are very much in the present. 

With lots of Del Rey’s work, I become enthralled by the work and the mastery, and the timeless feeling to many of her songs makes it easy to forget where you are. This one, however, keeps you firmly in the present. It is like being woken up after getting lost in the rest of the album.

The song itself is slow and easy, and ends the album perfectly.

Blue Banisters is available now. If you order the physical CD from UK HMV, you can also choose the album cover you prefer. Small details like this make the album feel more personal and more special. I love the artwork inside the alternative cover booklet, and the design on the cover and the disc itself are beautiful.

Written by Anna Flaherty

Politics graduate based in the UK. I'm passionate about writing so I can usually be found buried in ink and paper. Proud writer for 25YL!

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