There’s a new kind of soul in town. I’m not quite sure what’s so new about it, but it is certainly a welcome diversion from the norm, and this new soul steamroller is being driven at you, at juggernaut speed, by one Jillian Rose Banks, more formally known, simply, as Banks.
Quite frankly I’ve given up trying to list reference points for you. Initially, she reminded me of Sophie B Hawkins on the smooth initiation of ‘Gemini Feed‘, but join her on this 45 minute ride and you soon realise that you’ve actually been whisked away on a time machine through the history of contemporary R&B and pop. But don’t get TOO comfortable, for no sooner has, say, Lauryn Hill popped on as a passenger than she’s been hurled onto the grassy verge to be replaced by Nicki Minaj, who, in turn, has been hidden in the luggage compartment where she regenerates herself, Dr. Who style, into Rihanna on the stirring ‘Trainwreck‘. These are pseudo-versions of the artists, of course – they don’t actually feature.
If all this sounds a little complicated and far fetched, it’s merely because I have been rather bewildered by the onslaught. These are some terrific pop chillout tunes, but chip away at the surface and underneath you realise it’s not all chocolates, cappuccinos and roses, oh no, on The Altar, you will find some seriously angry prose. The bitter resentment is perhaps best summed up in Gemini Feed‘s chorus – “And to think you would get me to the altar, like I follow you around like a dog that needs water/But admit it that you wanted me smaller/If you would have let me grow, you could have kept my love.”
‘Haunt‘ is probably the most obvious nod to Banks’ established heroine, Fiona Apple, its moderate beats seguing perfectly with the singer’s penitent lamentations. If Goddess was already an impressive debut, with Banks laying her soul surprisingly bare, then its follow up is every bit its equal. The uncomfortable intimacy of its nature feels rather like we’re witnessing the break up of a long time relationship on the next table of what was meant to be a romantic restaurant meal.
It’s not all spitting venom though. There are tender torch ballads like the quite beautiful album closer ‘To The Hilt‘ after all, as well as a more playful side to her character witnessed on the sparsely produced, sultry, charmingly titled ‘Fuck With Myself‘, which is one of the standout moments here. All in all, the best way I can describe this record is as a comfort blanket for the broken hearted. Wrap it around your heart – it will free your mind and soothe your soul. Honest.
The Altar is released on 30th September 2016 through Virgin EMI.