Lana Del Rey’s newest album “Blue Banisters,” released Oct. 22, comes fresh on the heels of her March release “Chemtrails Over the Country Club.” Perhaps that is why the album feels so rushed and unpolished. 

On “Banisters,” Del Rey leans into a more relaxed, raw vocal style than much of her earlier work, as if reclaiming the atonality of her infamous Saturday Night Live performance of “Blue Jeans.” This new style acts to her detriment on “Black Bathing Suit,” but I grew to like it on other tracks like “Blue Banisters” and “Dealer.” On “Thunder,” Del Rey perfects this more authentic, emotional sound with a confrontational country twang that addresses the listener in a more direct way than her typical detached croons. 

The most successful songs on the album were released as singles and stand more or less independently of each other. “Wildflower Wildfire” features Del Rey showing off a rich contrast between the husky velvet of her low murmurs and the dizzying shimmer of her upper range. Meanwhile, the album’s titular track manages to sound like Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill” played at half speed, while still packing an incredible emotional force maintained by the floating ambient synths pierced by razor-sharp vocals

Still, outside of a few breakout tracks, the production as a whole feels rushed. Tracks like “Nectar of the Gods” sound like her early unreleased demos, such as “On Our Way” with intense voice breaks and unpolished guitars. Unusually for Del Rey, “Blue Banisters” isn’t sonically cohesive or thematically consistent. 

The most successful songs on the album were released as singles and stand more or less independently. “Wildflower Wildfire” features Del Rey showing off a rich contrast between the husky velvet of her low murmurs and the dizzying shimmer of her upper range. Meanwhile, the album’s titular track manages to sound like Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill” played at half speed, while still packing an incredible emotional force maintained by the floating ambient synths pierced by razor-sharp vocals.  

Other tracks are less successful, however. On the slapdash saccharine production “Beautiful,” Lana asks tough questions fundamental to the nature of the human experience: “What if someone had asked Picasso not to be sad/ Never known who he was or the man he’d become/ There would be no blue period.” She delivers these lyrics in the same intensely punctuated rhythm as Reese Witherspoon’s recitation of the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance in her role as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde” (2001), to a far less satisfying result. “Black Bathing Suit” with its frank discussion of her aging body being scrutinized the press had the potential to be the spiritual successor to 2012’s “Blue Jeans,” the music video of which featured a moderately pornographic Del Rey wearing a notably white bathing suit. Instead, it failed to integrate its multiple complex emotional narratives, isolating them with generic Del Rey imagery “Swisher Sweet, magazines” and jarring pacing. 

Of course, when one listens to Del Rey, they do so not for her lyrical mastery or technical ]perfection but for her incredible capacity to cultivate an immersive atmosphere. In her 2012 song “Gods and Monsters,” she quotes Walt Whitman, saying “life imitates art,” and she has embraced theatricality throughout her career. In the 2012 music video for “Ride,” she blatantly confesses a (dubiously authentic) coming-of-age backstory of riding through the American west, saying she and her biker daddies desired nothing more “than to make our lives into a work of art.” 

After nearly a decade, Del Rey has mastered the craft of inviting her listeners to experience a sort of catharsis through aesthetic detachment from the mundanity of daily life. For all its shortcomings, “Blue Banisters” excels at this. Lyrics like “You named your daughter lilac heaven after your iPhone 11/ Crypto forever screams your stupid boyfriend/ Fuck you Kevin” in “Sweet Carolina” are hardly timeless or profound. Still, Del Rey pairs these temporal lyrics with an invitation for her audience to evade “the blues” by escaping into her music: “If you’re stressed out just know you can dance to your song ‘cus we got you/ If you got the blues, baby blues/ Just know this is your song/ It’ll live on and on, way past me and you.” In that sense, this album is an unquestionable success, and “Blue Banisters” will doubtless be embraced by Lana Del Rey’s devoted fanbase not in spite of, but because of its unpolished theatrical melodrama and its corresponding capacity for dramatic escapism.