Album Review: Banks – ‘The Altar’

When Banks first exploded onto the scene in late 2013, fans were hooked on the singer’s ethereal dark-pop & R&B sound with tell-tale lyrics that by the time her debut full-length, Goddess, was released a year later, the excitement of having a collection of empowering anthems was palpable throughout the blogosphere. Now, the singer returns with her sophomore effort, The Altar, and if we’ve learned anything by following her career, it’s that holding back is not an option.

Opening up with the beloved “Gemini Feed,” it’s Banks 2.0 magnified as the singer starts a new fire of her own as she calls out an ex-lover who didn’t appreciate the goddess that she is. “And to think you would get me to the altar, like I’d follow you around like a dog that needs water” – such a sinister chorus yet one women around the world will be clinging to from now on when in search of something empowering.

Once “Fuck With Myself” comes into play, you know the rest of this album is going to be fire. With lyrics like, “I put two walls behind you just to lean on / You’re gonna need ‘em cause I stood you up,” there’s no denying the dynamic between the previous record and this one as the singer’s fiery side was upped a notch, making whoever it was written for beg for mercy…and we’re pretty sure she’s not sorry.

“Lovesick” takes on a Lana Del Rey vibe as the singer describes all her desires for a love worth waiting for while the heart of the record, “Mind Games” is the ultimate FU to a rather abusive, narcissistic partner in an unhealthy relationship that reminds me way too much of just about every man I’ve ever known. Haunting as it is seductive, this is going to be the track to hear live!

Perhaps the most surprising track is “Trainwreck” as it has a more up-tempo pop beat, but don’t let that fool you as the lyrical content is just as delightfully scathing as you’d expect, and that notion continues in “This Is Not About Us.”

R&B vibes run rampant throughout “Weaker Girl” – a track about owning your bad ass side as the man in your life falls intimidated while “Mother Earth” is the curl-up-in-bed-and-fall-apart track of the year as the singer’s voice is showcased flawlessly with a gorgeous orchestral backdrop to lose yourself in. “Judas” ignites the fire yet again as the singer pays homage to previous material with the line, “Beggin’ me for thread, I think you need to change your brain,” as she calls out a pretentious ex, making it quite clear that Taylor Swift may have a run for her money.

“Haunt” plays on the idea of having someone reappear everywhere you turn – a notion I’m all too familiar with while “Poltergeist” plays on the spookiness and most likely has Aaliyah smiling down from the heavens as gloomy R&B sensibilities loom over, reminiscent of the material on the late singer’s final 2001 self-titled album.

“To The Hilt” hits hard with the chorus of, “Hated you for leaving me / You were my muse for so long / Now I’m drained creatively,” while bonus track, “27 Hours,” closes out the album impeccably with a bang and a strong indication that this just may be a new beginning for Jillian Banks. Watch out, world.

The Altar is available now here.