Banks: The Altar

“I fuck with myself more than anybody else,” says Banks, reintroducing herself to 2016 with unapologetic swagger on lead single, Fuck With Myself. After making her breakthrough in 2013 with her debut record, Goddess, LA based singer Jillian Banks returns with The Altar, blending raw and autobiographical lyricism with twitchy trip-hop. Album opener, Gemini Feed, is a dancy alt-electro pop song that centres on her relationship with a controlling ex-lover: “You’re passive-aggressive / Convinced me other people, they don’t care about me.” On track 3 Banks delivers a sleek and effortlessly sexy R&B highlight titled, Lovesick, on which a soft pulsating beat grows slowly underneath breathy vocals. The lyrics are unashamedly blunt, with Banks murmuring, “I’m lovesick
I ain’t even ashamed, ah, ah / And I’m hard up for some time in your sheets,” but they’re certainly part of the song’s appeal.

“The lyrics are unashamedly blunt”

There’s an impressive variety of genres on this album, too. Guitars and violins provide the main instrumentation on Mother Earth, whilst rap, grime and trap influences can be heard on the fiery Trainwreck, Poltergeist and the irresistible Judas. It’s a sensual mix of textures, but this fusion of supposedly distant genres is far from revolutionary: just look at FKA twigs 2014 LP1, or even Lana Del Rey, who experimented with synthetic production within a typically more indie-pop soundscape on her 2015 record, Honeymoon.

 

Towards the end of the album, Banks delivers the post-break-up piano ballad, To The Hilt. It’s raw, and minimal, showcasing not only Banks’ vocal and lyrical capacity, but also her vulnerability: “Hated you for leaving me / You were my muse for so long.” But even on the explosive closer, 27 Hours, there’s perhaps not a vocal performance quite so compelling as Brain of Banks’ previous record. The Altar is consistent, at times excellent, but an assortment of sexy sounds doesn’t warrant worship.

 

3.5/5

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