Lana Del Rey: Blue Banisters album review
In the decade since his major debut Born to die, Lana Del Rey worked so quickly and cohesively, navigating so many fleeting controversies and thorny conversations, that it was easy to take her constant evolution as an artist for granted. The 36-year-old musician recently took a hiatus from social media, allowing herself an unusually quiet press cycle, and here she is sitting on the cover of her 2021 second album, blue ramps, nestled between two German Shepherds, serene and pastoral, far from the world. Things, for the moment, seem peaceful.
Let’s take this opportunity to check the state of his art with an exceptional piece entitled “Black Bathing Suit”. The subject remains in his wheelhouse. She admits to being complicated. She identifies as a “bad girl,” someone with a price on her head, living on borrowed time. She writes with a sense of casual fatalism about loneliness (“If this is the end, I want a boyfriend”) and boredom (“When I’m honest I’m sick of this shit” ), drawing our attention to the titular garment with a sense of focus which, when applied in horror films, generally leads us to believe that this object will later be used to identify a body. That’s all Lana 101.
But there are crucial updates. Contrary to Gatsby the magnificent role-playing game from his early work, all the action takes place nowadays – which we instantly recognize as the opening line says, “Grenadine, 40s, I love you very much / This is LA, ‘Hey’ on Zoom, Target parking. “And while it was once easy to label Lana as a pop artist – someone whose writing worked with tight structures and hooks, accompanied by whimsical videos and dance remixes -” Black Bathing Suit ” breaks with all boundaries. As she moves from verse to pre-chorus to chorus, she reveals the seams, each section finding its own distinct atmosphere with ghostly harmonies, timeless cymbal beats and, towards the end , a hoarse sound, Collect bolt cutters lament. Eventually, you start to feel like you’re in the studio by her side, listening beyond the fade as she polishes and adorns the music to stay interested.
There is a sense of playfulness, recklessness and freedom to blue ramps. If its predecessor, Chemtrails on the Country Club, was Lana’s most traditional singer-songwriter affair – a somewhat monochromatic collection of mid-tempo songs played on piano and acoustic guitar – and then these 15 tracks share a more limitless vision. One of her highlights, the latest “Sweet Carolina”, combines a breathtaking and delicate vocal performance with a set of lyrics possibly dedicated to her sister. And then out of nowhere there’s a verse that goes like this:
You call your baby Lilac Heaven
After your iPhone 11
‘Crypto forever’ yell your stupid boyfriend
Fuck you, Kevin
It’s funny and real, a reminder that the people we love the most aren’t just the ones we dedicate our serious love songs to, they’re often the recipients of our silliest jokes.
This freewheeling tone also informs the structure of the album. Among modern transmissions like “Black Bathing Suit,” “Sweet Carolina” and “Text Book” (“We were there, shouting,“ Black Lives Matter, ”she reflected) are songs like“ Living Legend ”and“ Cherry Blossom, ”titles that have been circulating among his fan base in unofficial form for years. These recordings, which go back to the sessions of the years 2014 Ultraviolence, make up about a third of the song list, extending the playing time beyond an hour and making the whole thing slightly heavy, unbalanced, lacking the cohesion of his best albums.
And yet, these qualities also make the record stand out: an investigation of Lana’s gifts, freed from the aesthetic boundaries that she often places around her work. It’s an approach that aligns her with the legacy artists she has always been inspired by: Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, artisans who constantly dig into archives to recontextualize their mythology. But there is also a pop precedent. If Lana were less obsessed with her work, she might have sequenced the more recent songs on a deluxe edition of Chemtrails; if she were more savvy, she might have released them as a companion version linked to close the year.
Fortunately, blue ramps is autonomous, encompassing the many styles that she now masters: the avant-garde collaboration of Miles Kane “Dealer” amounts to the psych-rock hypnosis of Ultraviolence, while the “Beautiful” spare taps into the same well of ambitious standards as 2017’s “Love”. Contributors include household names (Rick Nowels, Zachary Dawes) and literal family members (her father and sister, co-writers of “Sweet Carolina”), alongside ex-boyfriends and producers like Mike Dean. Yet it all flows with an airy, self-contained buzz. For those unfamiliar with the pivots and changes of scenery from album to album, you might not even notice the jumps in time.
Despite the wide range of moods – the unbridled howl of “I don’t want to live” in “Dealer,” its old Hollywood quiver returning for “Nectar of the Gods” – the clearest evolution is in the writing. Around the 2019 high water mark Norman fucking Rockwell!, Lana went from character studies and archetypes (best exemplified here in the classic “Thunder”) to first-person reflections on fame, inextricably linked to her own life in the public eye. At Chemtrails, she sang on “picking up Joni and dancing with Joan”, and now she writes about her family, her creative process and her personal struggles, more directly in “Text Book”. For all the sadness and despair throughout her songbook, one of the first lyrics of the song, “I don’t even have As myself, ”sounds like her most naked and hurtful confession.
When Lana released the piano ballad “Arcadia” this summer, she asked her fans, “Listen to her like you’re listening to ‘video games.’ streaming numbers to match those of his past work. (Born to die remains her only album to make her Top 10 debut.) But maybe she was asking for something more personal. After all, her first single was probably the last time Lana could release music without any expectations, presenting herself to the world on her own terms. Like many people who feel misunderstood, she is a chronic over-explicator, and blue ramps expands and elaborates beyond the point where we can place our own projections there. We know too much. But at its best, this music offers an even more rewarding thrill: it manages to entertain, delight and even surprise. because how well we know Lana Del Rey and how much more is yet to be learned.
Buy: Crude Trade
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