Goddess (to be released September 9, 2014)
The world of music has been very moody lately. It seems that more and more artists are veering toward atmospheric production, soul-wrenching lyrics and downright depressing themes.
All that doom and gloom can get pretty overwhelming. But in the hands of the right artist, it can be a bit empowering.
Say hi to Jillian Banks.
The LA singer has been turning heads for about a year now thanks to a collection of impressive EPs. Her debut album, Goddess, capitalizes on that potential. And although the title might seems like the usual music biz braggadocio, that’s not the case at all. The album is a look into the tumultuous heart of a woman wrestling with relationship insecurities.
It’s hard to categorize Banks’ sound. It’s almost if Alanis Morissette and The Weeknd had a baby who only listened to Aaliyah and Fiona Apple growing up. The vocals are usually light but the mood is almost always heavy.
“Give me something to convince me I’m not a monster,” she says on the opener, “Alibi.” When she’s not beating up on herself, she goes after her lovers, and the results are usually spectacular. The brooding title track is a perfect example: “You should have crowned her cause she’s a goddess, you never got this” – the delivery is spiteful but not outright angry. It’s that silent, seething kind of anger. It’s proof you’ve gotta watch out for those quiet ones.
Those quiet ones are also the most intriguing.
“Waiting Game” is equally pessimistic, as is “Brain” where haunting chants wisp around like phantoms as Banks frankly tells her man that she’s not here for his mind games. “Change” takes that message to another level: When her lover blames his commitment problems on his daddy issues, Banks calls him out: “poor poor baby, say you can’t help the fact that you’re so crazy/and you’re so good at making me feel guilty for trying to walk away.” She’s doesn’t deal well with excuses.
The album’s mood is mostly subdued but there are enough production quirks to keep things from getting dull. Synths raise the energy level of “Drowning,” bringing back memories of Chvrches’ “The Mother We Share.” “This Is What It Feels Like” croaks like a bullfrog while “F*** Em Only We Know” is spacy but remains down to earth. It would sound right at home on any Top 40 playlist.
Banks usually reigns in her vocals but she shows a surprising amount of strength on more traditional ballads, like “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From” and displaying tenderness on “Under the Table” and “Someone New.” It’s that vulnerability that keeps her music fresh and relatable, instead of whiny and miserable.
Longtime Banks fans might be a bit disappointed by the track list – nearly half the album’s songs already have been released in some form. But for fans new to Banks’ music, it’s a great opportunity to catch up on what you’ve been missing.
Banks may sulk behind a moody visage but it’s her fiery passion that’s her true strength.
Best tracks: “F*** Em Only We Know,” “Goddess,” “This Is What It Feels Like”
4 stars out of 5