REVIEW: Banks – Goddess

So here’s where we’re at with Banks: food- or bottle- we’re in, financial sort we’re out, and this here Jillian Banks? A little bit on the fence to be honest. We’ve really enjoyed the majority of her studio output so far, but a very mediocre live performance left us a bit nonplussed. Not really what you want from a BBC Sound of 2014 shortlistee and all-round hot tip.

It’s also not really what you want from a debut album, as Goddess tiptoes between enthralling and annoying. There’s absolutely no doubt that the production is immaculate here – hell, Banks has recruited some of the best in the business – but it’s not too long into the first track that you first pick up an unseemly tic. For some reason, Banks has adopted a Goulding-esque quiver to almost every note; it even pops up to ruin what used to feel like a solid single such as Stick.

It’s a shame for two reasons: one, most of her singles up to this point cleverly clouded it with atmospheric production (This Is What It Feels Like is still a marvel, Waiting Game has managed to withstand a Neon Jungle cover and retain its power); two, it’s hugely distracting from what could be an excellent album when you’re constantly willing someone to clear their throat and belt a note with confidence.

If that sounds a bit trite and petty for a critique, it doesn’t mean to take away from what Banks does right. Of the new tracks, Someone New is an endearing acoustic ballad, Alibi rings true, while Under The Table is genuinely affecting and up there with some of her best work. But there’s something empty about the production-by-numbers of Fuck Em Only We Know, which falls so fall short of the Aaliyah it aspires to, and You Should Know Where I’m Coming From feels painfully overwrought. At least one of production or vocal need to feel a bit robust; when both are thin, there’s a bit of a problem.

The rest? It’s everything we’ve heard before which, while saving it from a lower rating, also brings a sense of fatigue – this is a collection of singles rather than a cohesive opening statement. Don’t get us wrong, we like Banks, we really do. But for an artist touted to be the new face of electronic soul, it all feels a bit, well, soulless.

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Banks - Goddess
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