Lana Del Rey, "Blue Banisters" (Interscope)

The melodically roving title track to the ever-prolific Del Rey's second album of 2021 feels like a kind of spiritual sequel to "Dance Till We Die" from her previous record, "Chemtrails Over the Country Club." Del Rey's music has recently become populated with a kind of coterie of female first names, giving many of her songs an insular yet invitingly chummy atmosphere.

If "Dance Till We Die" was a kind of matriarchal communion with some of her musical heroes (nods to Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Stevie Nicks), "Blue Banisters" finds her getting by with a little help from less famous friends. This vaporous, searching piano ballad ponders a choice between settling down into conventional, wifely femininity and living a more restless and solitary artist's life: "Most men don't want a woman with a legacy," Del Rey sings.

By the end of the song, though, she's eked out a third option, neither in love nor alone, surrounded by "all my sisters" who come together to paint her banisters a different hue than the one her ex once preferred. For all the criticism Del Rey bore early in her career for conjuring the loneliness of embodying a male fantasy, it's been fascinating to watch her music gradually turn into a space warmed by romantic friendship and female solidarity.



Miranda Lambert, "If I Was a Cowboy" (RCA Nashville)

Beyoncé famously mused "If I Were a Boy"; Lambert is now giving a similar song-length thought exercise a countrified twist. Lambert's first solo single since her eclectic, Grammy-winning 2019 album "Wildcard" finds her in a breezy, laid-back register, as opposed to her more fiery fare. But the song's outlaw attitude and clever gender commentary give the tune a casually rebellious spirit. "So mamas, if your daughters grow up to be cowboys," she sings on the smirking bridge, " … so what?"



  • Tori Amos, "Ocean to Ocean"
  • The War on Drugs, "I Don't Live Here Anymore"
  • Mastodon, "Hushed and Grime"
  • Jerry Cantrell, "Brighten"