I think I promised some Lana-related blabbing, so here it goes. I've been traveling a lot these past several days, which has left me quite some time to enjoy music. And by music I mean 90 percent "Norman Fucking Rockwell."
This and "Cinnamon Girl" are, to me, the standout tracks off this album. There's really not a dud among the group - some songs are a little more subdued than others, I will say - but the songs that stand out are like, shit people will be listening to in 20 plus years.
Now, for "Mariners Apartment Complex," there's two reasons it is - without a doubt - one of her top tracks. First of all, it's a classic throwback ballad dressed up in modern production (the help of Jack Antonoff.) This sounds like something that emerged directly for radio play in the '70s. Without the production that is undeniably contemporary - imagine a stripped-down acoustic version - "Mariners" would not be out of place in the singer-songwriter movement of that period.
The second reason are those lyrics. My GOD. Lana can really, really, really write a song - in a way that puts her heads above most of her mainstream associates. She can do what Jack Kerouac once wrote about - create a mind-movie using only her words. But more than that - what I find really interesting about "Norman Fucking Rockwell" as a whole is the fact that somehow Lana is tackling not novel subject matter, but she's discussing it in a way few others are able to articulate. Yes, there are plenty of love songs. "And who I am is a big-time believer that people can change, that you don't have to leave her. When everyone's talking, you can make a stand." I would argue that she's probably the closet thing we have to a heir to Leonard Cohen in the soundscape of today's mainstream pop.
I don't really like to wax on lyrical interpretations, since it is sort of a Rorschah Test for everyone who listens to a song, but the way I see "Mariners" is it's a love song to someone who is reluctant about love. A lot of the lyrics seem to verge on reassurance to her intended target. Some of it is borderline sardonic - there is some dark humor very obvious on this album - but other lines are surprisingly tender. "You're lost at sea, then I'll command your boat to me again" is a personal favorite.
Remember when LDR first broke out earlier this decade? Well, there was a whole of pushback about who she was and what her shtick was. Lots of questions about authenticity, probing into her background, dissecting who the struggling singer-songwriter "Lizzy Grant" was. And in retrospect, that was never fair to her. Due to the massively positive critical reception of "Norman Fucking Rockwell," it's safe to say, however, that those days are long behind her.
But it begs asking, why did it take so long for people to genuinely recognize how talented she is to begin with?