One can only be impressed by Lana Del Rey’s artistic clockwork. At the dawn of her career, she retooled the supreme, luxurious melancholy of early 1960s girl groups for a new era, swiftly connecting those halcyon Camelot days of JFK’s presidency with 21st century America’s pride and fascination with another charismatic world leader. Adorned with mile-high hair and Cleopatra-winged lashes, Lana embodied all the desired glamour and glory from a nation still proud of its prominence and culture, her music a searing, naïve reflection of the simplistic tragedies of young love. Yet, as the earlier, cheery idealism of the Teens Decade slowly fell into cold, nervous splendor, so did Lana’s art slowly change from mere patriotic wanderlust to a complex collection of altered ideals and values. This especially came to fore on her last studio album, Lust for Life, which depicted the once malt-shop millennial as a bewildered flower child, succumbing to the Trumpian numbness and anxiety buzzing around her. Like the decade of which she so dearly borrowed, Lana began to view our own current epoch as fracturing, dividing, bursting at the seams, and she realized that, like those pillbox hatters of yesteryear, she would either have to adapt or die.
It is that sentiment which makes her latest track “Mariners Apartment Complex” even more evocative. Completely devoid of the sheen-driven hallmarks of the Golden Age of Pop, it is an effortless love letter to the Californian folk scene of the early 1970s, a faded, modern remnant of the retired, well-educated hippies of Laurel Canyon spilling their secretive heartbreaks and epiphanies amidst marijuana smoke. Here she has left behind a whimsical, fabulous existence for something more tranquil and underground, yet even within this solitude she has found, there remains the stark darkness of her past, desperately bleeding into newfound unions. “Don’t look too far, right where you are, that’s where I am,” she calls over a sweeping piano, totally shifting convention and tone with the mantra-like: “I’m your man, I’m your man.” It is a profound, chilling exploration of persona and expectation, how our pain has a way of finding us when we have long-since let it go, and how we then pacify the woes and beliefs of others for our own peace.
Especially coming off the heels of summer, there exists within a palpable mixture of unease and finality, pushing all emotions into a shimmering pool of shadows. One feels the harsh beads of sweat sliding down their face. One sees the cool dance of trees shaking in the wind. One hears the raucous lullabies of crickets and cicadas filling the great beyond. Already a master of mood and atmosphere, Lana embraces her greatest lo-fi, bohemian instincts without fear nor concern, giving herself away to dreamlike depths and psychedelic lethargy, engulfing us with bejeweled sunsets and abandoned dirt roads. Even in the frigidity of winter, it feels as if “Mariners Apartment Complex” would still radiate with such warmth and heat, sizzling against our skulls in senseless harmony. And that is precisely what makes it such an incredible move: though we know less of what is to follow, the track itself reminds us how vital Lana’s presence is in the current Pop scene, how she brings to the table what others often miss. And as the nation grows deeper in introspection and sobriety, Lana seems to be telling us that she will be close behind, telling the stories that we cannot.