My previous two Leap Day posts surprisingly contain no mention of the date. In 2012, I featured The Shins’ ‘Saint Simon’ during a week of unrelated songs (I did a lot fewer theme weeks in the blog’s early days).
Norman Fucking Rockwell – Lana Del Rey (2019)
Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell is the newest album on this list, having come out only a few months ago. I suppose that opens it up to potential recency bias, but its greatness is so undeniable I couldn’t stop myself from placing it this high.
Del Rey truly belongs to the past decade. Her hard-to-find self-titled debut dropped in 2010, and she’s released five brilliant albums about every other year since then, culminating in her finest work to date with Rockwell.
2. ‘How to disappear’ – This is another track that was released, in a way, well before the album came out, when Del Rey and Jack Antonoff performed a piano-and-vocals version live at an Apple event. That recording is a thing of beauty, but the studio version is just as transcendent, adding ramshackle instrumentation that reminds me of the work Jon Brion did with Fiona Apple back in the 90s.
5. ‘Mariners Apartment Complex’ – This was the other single released a full year ago, and it has been a definite favorite of mine ever since. In fact, if I had heard this song for the first time as an album track it may well be at the top of this list. But I’ve known it for so long now that I’m giving the newer songs an edge for the accompanying sense of discovery.
8. ‘Venice Bitch’ – One of the first singles released, a full year ago, ‘Venice Bitch’ clocks in at nearly 10 minutes, with most of that running time devoted to a swirling, ethereal electric guitar part. When I wrote about this song back in February, I predicted that I would likely skip the back half during future listens. Interestingly, I never have… it has such a glorious vibe I can’t help but see it through every time. As Del Rey told her label when they balked at releasing such a long song as a single, “end of summer some people just wanna drive around for 10 minutes and get lost in electric guitar.”
11. ‘The Next Best American Record’ – Re-listening to this song in order to write something here, I’m thinking it might be my favorite on the album. That’s how good this record is — a song outside of my top ten is in the conversation for the top spot. This one was reworked from a demo slated for her previous album, but wound up here in a new form.
I’ve been anticipating this album for a year, since the first two singles were released last summer. Since then, Del Rey has trickled out several more tracks, building anticipation, before finally dropping the album a few weeks ago.