What happens when your stream of consciousness forces you to examine the various states of unrest in your relationships? The journey can be haunting, painful and educational, but it can also be cathartic. American singer and songwriter, Jillian Banks, better known as BANKS, defies the alt-pop and R&B genres. Set against the backdrop of eerie vocals and throbbing electronic beats, her lyrics give shape to the feelings we harbor only in the deepest recesses of our minds.
BANKS’ sophomore album, The Altar, set for release on September 30th, has a more confessional tone than her last album and focuses on the relationships that we have with others and the sometimes destructive relationships we have with ourselves. The second track, “Fuck With Myself” acknowledges the stress of meeting expectations and the idea that nobody’s pressure is as great as your own. Pain and anxiety are self-inflicted, but “it’s all love.” The album vacillates between these highs and lows, and restraint and chaos.
Many of her lyrics fall in the space between processing an issue or emotion and formulating a conclusion. The rising intensity of “Love Sick” parallels the plea one makes to a lover after realizing you’ve loved that person all along. The sultry cooing in the first verse opens up to a pulsating chorus where BANKS admits, “Cause I’m lovesick/ I ain’t even ashamed.” The calculated breaks throughout the song add to the feeling that the narrator keeps pausing on her train of thought. “Mind Games” is the counter-balance to “Love Sick.” The third single is confrontational. BANKS is not waiting for her deceitful lover to come to her. She uses lyrics that strike and in the process scathes herself for her missteps.
At some point during the unraveling process, BANKS becomes content with where she is in that moment. In “Mother Earth” the narrator’s choice to shed all inhibitions and accept the space she is in is empowering. The soft plucking on the guitar highlights the beauty of the vocals. The acceptance of the crumpled relationship comes in “To The Hilt.” The lyrics highlight anger and regret as she sings “Hated you for leaving me/ You were my muse for so long/ Now I’m drained creatively/ I miss you on my team.”
While BANKS is known for her darker music, this album is not without highs. The synth-centric bonus track, “27 Hours” builds slowly with somber keys preparing you for another seething ballad and then BANKS’ voice meets reverb and delivers with “Baby murder was the case.” Sure she’s confessing to destroying a relationship, but the lyrics “It’s been 27 hours since we even saw the sun” will be remixed and revered by club kids and DJs alike. The sudo-trap song, “Trainwreck” reminds listeners that sometimes you’re better off once you escape a bad relationship. It’s as much a power track as a showcase for R&B beats and vocal prowess.
In its simplest form, The Altar is a release. Banks delivered an album that shares every revelation, attacks every struggle, and literally lays everything on the altar for us to judge as worthy. And while she’s laid it all out to make us think we can judge her, she doesn’t give a fuck about what any of us think.
Article: Alx Bear