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ATP! Album Review: BANKS – Goddess

I was not prepared for Goddess. Really, where was my warning? Jillian Banks sewed together this quilt of passionate expression that hit inside me instantly. I was caught so off-guard! Okay maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but I do mean it when I say that Goddess is going to be one of the strongest releases of 2014.

BANKS has been feeding us samples of this record through her singles over the past few years. Shining brightest out of them are ‘Beggin’ For Thread’ and the Shlohmo-produced ‘Brain.’ BANKS’ brand of atmospheric R&B is what truly separates her from other musical counterparts she’s constantly put with (or any group who tries to pass her music as theirs, not naming names). While many are quick to place her behind Lana Del Rey or The Weeknd one might skip over BANKS’ X-factor. Her ability to harmonize her genuinely sensitive lyrics with an elegant falsetto and smoky production soundly is a talent that not a lot of contemporary artists possess. She implements this talent in an effortless fashion in which she calls, Goddess.

BANKS’ confessional songwriting gives Goddess the narrative of broken love in a vivid view. There’s this attachment BANKS puts on her subjects that makes the loss more brooding and scaring. ‘Drowning’ seems like it stems from the darkest parts of a relationship. The deeply sexual and outright scary storyline and airy beat create one of the most fluid tracks on the album. BANKS’ declarative tone makes the title a bit of an understatement given that her drowning was not her doing, moreover a lover who didn’t hold out their hand for comfort or salvation in her time of internal turmoil. Which is a struggle that comes up all throughout Goddess.

This struggle is very well known don’t get me wrong. From damsels in abusive relationships back to lovers who never felt loved back, the themes and struggles on Goddess are nothing new. Yet it’s the way that Jillian Banks presents them that makes her stand out in this digital sea of starlets. Many have made it through the festival circuits and online dashboards only to be quickly forgotten about by people who found them boring. Yet that’s not what BANKS proves on this record. BANKS has this ability to craft her songs in ways that seep in to the listener to feel what was going through her mind when she wrote the lyrics.

Even though the seemingly dry but upbeat ‘Stick’ and poppy ‘Fuck ‘Em Only We Know’ don’t have the same lyrical quality as the light single ‘Warm Water’ does, they don’t subtract from the album’s narrative and ambiance. While these are the only really emotionally positive tracks on the LP, they do give balance to the rest of the gut-wrenching tunes to show that BANKS isn’t sad ALL the time.

The standout tracks of Goddess are the ones where BANKS strips down the production for the sake of a heartfelt message. ‘You Should Know Where I’m Coming From’ is a frustrated ballad that throws things across the room trying to get some sort of response out of a distant companion. After that comes ‘Someone New,’ a simple acoustic track that lays gently on the ears and hearts of the listeners and could very easily be floating on the airwaves sometime soon. Both tracks share this muted affection in their lyrics that holds them up to the powerful singles that came before them on this release.

And then there’s ‘Under The Table,’ the album’s closer. While some think that it lacks the backbone of a beaten piano-driven tune, the beauty lies in BANKS’ vocals. This is the most fragile and vulnerable we hear BANKS as she discuses being “under the table / Just keep wishing I’ll come out but I don’t”. The intense intimacy of this track coincides with the rest of the album but in a more masterful way. The image of desperately hiding from something out of fear immediately grabs the heart of anyone who has ever felt that way, all accomplished by BANKS’ light falsetto that carries this resolute note to give Goddess the finale it deserves.

This album rates high with me, and for one good reason. BANKS didn’t fill her album with any bullshit. She didn’t fill a CD with cliché or shallow lyrics drizzled with a manufactured beat topped with frantic promotion from tumblr twinks and music nerds alike. She crafted a record from the scars of her trampled heart that poured in to the ears smoothly and gracefully. BANKS has established that she not only walks the walk, but she also talks her own talk. A debut like Goddess is a record artists spend years making. It’s safe to say you’ll be hearing about Jillian Banks for a very long time.


Jordan Wyman

Goddess is out now via Harvest Records.

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