“Most men don’t want a woman with a legacy,” asserts Lana Del Rey on the title track of her eighth album. Her sharp eye, tired of gazing on archetypal bad boys or her own tragic poses, is trained on that legacy now. In 2020 she published her first poetry book, and this, her second record in seven months, will, she has promised, “tell my story”. Take that with a pinch of salt: Del Rey was doing autofiction before it was cool, and of late has been doing it exceptionally well.
Blue Banisters, heavy with stately, stark piano ballads, finds her pushing the edges of her askew-Americana shtick. Sure, on the austere classic pop of opener Text Book she sings: “You’ve got a Thunderbird/ My daddy had one too”, but her voice cuts through sharply, shorn of stylised affectation. On Living Legend, she revels in an unfamiliar, deep, throaty register and a weird, wahing impression of a harmonica. Things get wilder on Dealer, a surreal, loungey duet with Miles Kane, Del Rey disrupting her perfectly composed demeanour with soulful, ragged howls.
Blue Banisters could do with a sharper focus – some of these 15 songs are outtakes dating back years – and a hip-hopped-Morricone instrumental interlude feels like an incongruous eruption from her “gangster Nancy Sinatra” era. But it offers glimpses of vistas to be explored beyond Lana’s customary LA backdrops and a legacy already secure.