July 8, 2019 BANKS – III (Album Review)
Life has its ups and downs, and through select choices made by weighing risk or consequence, one reaches their final destination. Through art and other self-expression, clarity can arise and lead to deeper understanding everyone craves. That said, Jillian Rose Banks, known as BANKS, is an artist with a finite execution of her own experiences into her music. A passionate singer-songwriter out of Southern California, all of her songs convey moments in her life with a tone only she can speak, as heard on her powerful 2014 debut Goddess and its follow-up, 2016’s The Altar. Fast forward to present day, the approach is no different for BANKS as she is set to release her third studio album via Harvest Records on Friday, July 12, 2019.
Simply entitled III, it is filled with tales of the in-between with a beauty and struggle of love and loss that is built brick by brick into each of the thirteen new tracks. For example, the single “Gimme” has a busty beat that does not hesitate to latch on in the catchiest of ways with a chorus that explodes with a cacophony of voices. It is no wonder it has already amassed 10 million streams. On the other hand, “Contaminated” is a slow ballad with an intriguing marriage of singing with the backing electronica beautifully summarized with the line, “It was always gonna be contaminated.” This is while other songs such as “Stroke” are established in low resonance and blundering frequencies in a distinctive manner. Yet still, BANKS keeps her vocals in a melodic state of being that contrasts the instrumental.
Changing the mood slightly, “Godless” resides in a bleak state of being, but despite its title, is a hard-hitting prayer for someone without belief. Rising up from a quiet hymn and into a bellowing chant, it is fueled by the defining lyric, “Because you are my god and when you’re gone I’m godless.” Thereafter ,”Sawzall” is a personal and unexpected requiem; it’s bright and enlightening with appearances of children’s voices and a simple piano accompaniment.
This is all while “Hawaiian Mazes” emerges later on as a much calmer song with a chorus that is a unique flurry of breathy vocals, cartoonish sound effects, and raw vocals that ascend the entire song to a drifting fantasy. The entire track feels as though it belongs in the golden age of cinema and stands as a gorgeous testament to BANKS’ unique compositions. Then recapturing the unyielding energy of the first few tracks of the album, “The Fall” comes in with borderline symphonic synth melodies, rattling percussion, and fervent vocals. Meanwhile, “If We Were Made of Water” ebbs and flows with a gentle approach while building into an encapsulating piece of what it means to be alive.
Overall, the songs on III are a step to the right of modern Pop compositions and it results in a unique sound. The riskier and more eclectic tracks stand out from their more formulaic counterparts, however, collectively the album is solid and true to the style of BANKS as an artist. Exploring varying vocal techniques, some of which are strange and could be unappealing to certain listeners, the effects used work towards creating an inimitable piece of art. That is why Cryptic Rock gives III 4 out of 5 stars.