Banks – The Altar

By Jack Holmes

Banks released her debut album Goddess back in 2014 and was subsequently praised for her willingness to honestly expose herself and her experiences through an album that largely delivered from start to finish. Banks now returns with The Altar, a highly anticipated album that could either continue Banks’ place as an uncompromising creator of original content or see her fall into the grasps of mainstream pop. We’re happy to confirm the latter is, for a second time, not the case, as Banks continues to shrug off the draw of current trends and focus once again on creating emotionally stimulating content, just as honest as Goddess and perhaps even more so.

Jilian Banks spent 10 years prior to her debut album honing her skills without a single track making its way into the public domain, an impressive feat in the digital age. Her origins are also one of her biggest draws now as she releases her second album possessing a songwriting style that sounds entirely internal as if there’s no filter between her mind and the words you’re hearing.

It’s certainly not the case, and The Altar, although boasting passionately honest, undiluted soul searching vocals, dances across a soundtrack that rises and falls with a precision that has clearly taken time to perfect.

There’s a certain solemn honesty, both in the overall atmosphere of the album, but also lyrically, as Banks occasionally hints at the personal tragedies that have spawned such an emotional creation, before moving on to focus on the emotions tied to said event. In this way, she creates tracks that have universal appeal, rather than the musical autobiography that The Altar could have become. It’s not an album that’s going to grab you by the throat and scream into your ear hole, it’s an album that wistfully entices in listeners until Banks’ perfectly crafted odes to life, love and loneliness wash over you like a second skin.

Stand out tracks include the album’s lead single Fuck With Myself, which was originally released way back in July on Zane Lowe’s Beats One radio show. “It could be like, ‘I fuck with myself’, like, ‘I mess with myself more than anybody else.’ It could be, ‘I fuck with myself’, kind of like, ‘I’m feeling myself.’ It means a lot of different things that I think a lot of people can relate to” she responded when asked what the tracks title and coinciding chorus meant. The album follows this same theme of displaying raw emotion, ready for a listener to imprint their own experiences onto, to better understand the content that they’re hearing. It’s a unique approach to songwriting and works almost as a kind of mental exercise as well as a wonderfully created collection of music.

If broken down to its purest musical components, The Altar is just at home being classed as a moody R&B album as it is a mainstream indie pop epic. The fact is that Bank’s has released a solid album that’s as honest and heartfelt as it is atmospheric and that’s something that doesn’t need to be placed into a strict genre to be enjoyed.

You can find out more about Banks’ second album on her website here.

Jack Holmes

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