Worship Banks at ‘The Altar’
Alexandra Lowery | Monday, October 3, 2016
“Have you heard Banks’ new stuff?”
“Yeah, it’s really good … just angry.”
This was a conversation I had after Jillian Banks, better known to the alt-pop world and heartbroken women everywhere simply as BANKS, released a string of electric singles the summer prior to her sophomore effort, “The Altar.”
Banks made a name for herself with a steady stream of emotional releases before her debut album “Goddess” made a huge splash (in the form of angry tears) in 2014. Hailed for its gloomy honesty and sleek production, the album kept crowds guessing what Banks had in store for our heartstrings next.
Boldly setting the tone for Banks’ post-“Goddess” era,“The Altar’s” lead single “F— with Myself” is an unapologetic self-love anthem, which embodies the dark, synth-R&B beats that infect the whole album.
“Gemini Feed” and “Mind Games” quickly follow, two indie-pop hits that are pure Banks. With dissonant vocals layered over deadly electronic trappy beats, both songs are haunting, lyrically and otherwise. Witty lines like “you’re claiming I’m a handful when you show up all empty-handed” epitomize the torment-turned-catharsis that make her songs so compelling.
The evolution of Banks’ sound is best illustrated in songs like “Trainwreck” where she’s spewing irate words rapid-fire and most notably singing about decapitating the only head a man can think with. The song feels like she’s been listening to the “Nicki Minaj: Straight Spittin’” Apple Music playlist on repeat for weeks.
The second half of the record remains in the same bitter-empowerment headspace with a few refreshing departures like “Weaker Girl” and “Mother Earth.” Banks told Time Magazine that these songs are her way of leading her listeners as a wounded healer, a woman who has known real pain and can help others by utilizing her own experiences — a beautiful sentiment that can be physically felt through her vulnerability, and honestly, affirmation for all the times I have snapped and tweeted that “Banks has been hurt and she is here for me, she is here for us all, ladies.”
“The Altar” will not move Banks into the “1989” or “Purpose” realm of mainstream pop, but that was never the goal. The self-obsessed honesty in“The Altar” is a true artistic release that affirms the message its first single set out to convey, Banks questions herself more than anybody else.
Made by a hurt woman for hurt women everywhere, Banks’ second LP is no radical change for the artist, but ultimately a brilliant continuation and manifestation of her evolution through self-awareness and empowerment.
Tracks: “Haunt,” “27 Hours”
If you like: FKA Twigs, Broods, MØ, Lapsley, Foxes