The funereal pace of Lana Del Rey’s songs doesn’t suggest a feverish working environment, but here she is with her second album of the year, her third in just over two years. Without a world tour to occupy her, the LA-based singer-songwriter has been fine-tuning her sound, and at first glance the usual tropes are all here: despondent piano chords, that blurred, swooning voice, and lines that mix ruined romance and Americana. “My body is a map of LA,” she sings on Arcadia. “Light me up like the Fourth of July,” she urges a sometime lover on If You Lie Down With Me.
But while her style has become more easily identifiable since the career high of her album Norman F**king Rockwell! in 2019 – avoiding current sonic trends, wallowing in beautiful sadness – Blue Banisters changes the record if you listen closely. Usually crafting her own stars and stripes mythology with her lyrics, there’s a lot of specific personal detail here. On the opening track, Text Book, she attends a Black Lives Matter march with a man she likes because he has the same car as her father. The high, fluttering voice she adopts on the charming closer, Sweet Carolina, is addressed to her sister’s newborn daughter.
After two close Jack Antonoff collaborations, she’s working with a range of producers and co-writers this time, which leads to impressive anomalies such as Dealer, where British indie guitarist Miles Kane gets the lead vocal, and the swinging string section on Thunder. It counts as this singular artist being eclectic, and it works.