I first fell in love with singer-songwriter Banks (Jillian Banks) when I heard her song ‘Warm Water’ whilst scrolling through Tumblr. Since then I have been constantly enchanted and inspired by Banks’ ethereal yet painfully honest music. Her debut album Goddess was completely hypnotising, there was something almost terrifying about this woman, with her unique voice and stories of real, personal torment and experience. I’m still a tiny bit terrified of Banks, but with the release of her second album The Altar, I now look up to her for helping me to grow with her extraordinarily brave music.
The album’s debut single ‘Fuck With Myself’ is absolutely bad-ass. “‘cause my love’s so good, so I fuck with myself more than anybody else” she sings. Through creepy hypnotic beats, Banks presents the idea of self-love in an almost threatening way, her chocolatey voice dripping all over the song. The singer has also explained that the song is open to interpretation, suggesting it could alternatively be about messing with your own head more than anybody’s else’s, rather than loving yourself. With this in mind, I think the accompanying video is an appropriate mix of disturbing and erotic.
Banks presents The idea of self-love In an almost threatening way, her chocolatey voice dripping all over the song
‘Gemini Feed’ and ‘Trainwreck’, although feeling like very different songs, both visit the idea of being unheard in a toxic relationship and ultimately being stifled by it which leads to the need to get out. ‘Gemini Feed’ is classic Banks; bubbling, dark, alternative pop music. Whereas ‘Trainwreck’ showcases a harsher less palatable side to Banks. ‘Judas’, too is moody and haunting, an R&B number with achingly raw lyrics; “too numb to feel the knife in my back”. Much of Banks’ music comes from a place of pain, many of these songs dealing with the difficult discussion of how a depressive relationship can affect an individual. The Altar is not to be listened to lightly, although simply listening to Banks’ music is the easy part.
Other songs on the album show a gentler, less fierce Banks, dealing with her vulnerability through acceptance. Track ‘Mother Earth’ is wonderfully understated yet devastating. A chorus of angelic voices swim over acoustic guitar, offering a place of solace and healing to the listener, specifically the female listener. In an interview with TIME magazine the singer explained how the song was born of “coming out of a depression” and how “I [Banks] wanted to give my energy and hold the hand of another woman who has felt how I feel.” And when Banks isn’t healing herself and others through song, she simply lays down her feelings for all to bare, as in track ’To The Hilt’. Classic piano accompanies her voice in it’s most beautiful, lamenting the loss of a person and consequently the thing that saves her – her ability to create music.
It is clear if you read any interviews with Banks and then listen to her music, that she creates for no one but herself. She sometimes struggles to share her music to the point that putting out an album isn’t necessarily an enjoyable experience for her. Letting go of the most deeply personal and private part of your life is bound to be terrifying, but I think it’s vitally important that some people do that. I for one am so grateful for albums like The Altar that assure listeners that they are not alone in their feelings, however self-deprecating or shameful they think they are. Particularly being a woman, it is important that artists like Banks talk about their experiences in order to normalise the idea of women sharing, unapologetically, in as well as out of the public eye.
Banks can do it all, from huge and powerful to unique and flawless production to a shivering silhouette of a song. There is not a single track on The Altar that I do not love.