BANKS, Goddess

Abby Garnett

By Abby Garnett

on 09.09.14 in Reviews



On Goddess, BANKS (the stage name of singer-songwriter Jillian Banks) guns for a specific spot in the alt-R&B pantheon — the mysterious, disarmingly candid songstress, whose gloomy, tic-filled productions form a backdrop for her own unresolved psychological chaos. Banks isn’t a particularly versatile singer, and her success is varied. The sinewy double-tracked melodies on “This Is What It Feels Like” turn her reedy tones into something eerily powerful, while on “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From,” a dour, overproduced ballad penned by Banks and Justin Parker, the co-writer of both Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” and Rihanna’s “Stay,” the same vocal qualities make her sound strained and a little sour.

Strained and a little sour

Goddess‘s sound comes from a roster of young producers, including frequent collaborator Lil Silva, Orlando Higginbottom of Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and London crooner Jamie Woon. Of those names, the strangest appearance is probably the allergic-to-cool Higginbottom, whose two contributions tease out warmer pop sentiments from the typically severe Banks, especially on the rapturous, swooning love song “Fuck Em Only We Know,” an outlier on an album mostly concerned with atmospheric misery.

Banks toured with alt-R&B villain the Weeknd in 2013, but despite the seemingly calculated nature of that double bill, she’s not an equivalent female figurehead. Banks’s misanthropy mostly involves hurling abuse at herself — at various points on Goddess, she calls herself “mean,” “unstable,” “selfish,” an “instigator,” worries that she’s “too crazy to love” and (on two separate occasions) promises to be better. All that self-loathing feels symptomatic of a larger cynicism that simultaneously prizes atmosphere and dilutes it with undiscerning trend-chasing (see the three forgettable ballads tacked unceremoniously onto the album’s tail end.) Goddess covers all the requisite bases, but Banks may be missing the forest for the mirror.