Friday, August 29, 2014

Goddess | Banks


★★★★★

When it was announced in April, Jillian Banks' debut album seemed to have a release date cast so far into the future that it would like waiting an eternity to get our hands on it. Although summer was past us before I could even blink, I'm still glad to say the wait is nearly over and the album's release is just around the corner. But, does the album live up to the expectations of a Goddess?

Just like the extended plays before it, Goddess holds a distinct sound that Banks originally grabbed onto and has now ran with. Where can this Banks sound be found at? Somewhere in the bustling junction of trip-hop beats, dark electronic synths, and R&B influences. Vocally, Banks manages to deliver both smokey low croons ("Drowning," "Beggin for Thread") and confident higher belts ("You Should Know Where I'm Coming From," "Waiting Game"). An airy yet constricted upper register is also explored some in "Stick," a track driven by snaps and cracks, and "Fuck Em Only We Know," a standard Banks track sprinkled with a surprisingly higher-pitched synth line.

The lyrics of this album are almost exclusively about heartbreak and moving on from a past partner. Each song can represent a stage of Banks' post break-up healing process, from the desperate plea of "What if I never even see you 'cause we're both on a stage? / Don't tell me to listen to your song because it isn't the same. / I don't say your love is a waiting game," to the fiery snaps of "I can see you struggling / Boy, don't hurt your brain / Thinking what you're gonna say."

After first blaming herself for the trouble in paradise on "Alibi" ("Please, give me something to convince me that I am not a monster"), Banks begins to glow with self-confidence in the title track as she essentially tells her ex that he messed with the wrong girl: "Now you gotta deal with this glitch on your shoulder / Fucking with a goddess and you get a little colder." 

Like we can see in "Goddess," revenge and reflection seem to overpower any implications of a permanently broken heart on many of these tracks. In "Drowning," Banks admits feeling suffocated by her strained relationship ("Take it from the girl you claimed to love / You gonna get some bad karma / I'm the one who had to learn to build a heart made of armor"), while in "Beggin For Thread," she warns of the power that can be emitted from her lyrics ("My words can come out as a pistol / I'm no good at aiming / But I can aim it at you"). 

Banks only breaks free from her cozy 'electro-R&B-hop' sound a few times on this album, in favor of an intimate acoustic sound. Minus a light synth run, "Someone New" is purely Banks and a guitar - a personal singer-songwriter type of sound. Meanwhile, the Justin Parker-produced "You Should Know Where I'm Coming From" is mainly piano-based, but manages to swell with strings and drums as Banks utilizes her mid-range to belt out, "I was alone when I burned my home / And all of the pieces were torn and thrown / You should know where I'm coming from."

Goddess is a monstrous debut suite of eighteen tracks. If we want to count purely new material, we're left with eleven tracks after subtracting the four tracks from the London EP and the three tracks that predate that EP ("Warm Water," "Fall Over," and "Before I Ever Met You"). Normally, larger albums give more surface area for critics to find faults - but not on this album. Banks packs a strong punch with Goddess and rightfully blasts her way into the top of the ranks for one of this year's best debuts. Her career has been developing slowly but surely in the past year and this album is the icing on the cake as she begins her reign as a Goddess.

Goddess will be available in the United States on September 9, 2014. An exclusive vinyl pressing can be found at Urban Outfitters locations.

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