April 3, 2020 BANKS – Live and Stripped (EP Review)
Since being signed back in 2013, Californian Singer Jillian Rose Banks, known as BANKS, has been rather busy – releasing three studio albums, two EPs, and a remix album. All featuring her intangibly stunning voice, her 2014 album Goddess charted in the Top 20 in countries throughout the world, debuting at Number 12 on the Billboard 200. Furthermore, multiple tracks from Goddess were featured onscreen, in films such as from the 2014’s Divergent and in hit series like Grey’s Anatomy.
Striking big once again, her 2016 follow-up LP, The Altar, refused to disappoint as it debuted at Number 17 on the Billboard 200, before she released III in 2019 featuring three strong singles. Now, BANKS’ transformative journey continues with the new EP Live and Stripped, which arrives on April 3, 2020.
Born from the 1 Mic 1 Take series created by Capitol Records, the EP features four live and unrestrained acoustic versions of “Stroke,” “Made of Water,” “Drowning,” and “Contaminated.” First there is “Stroke” which rings out clear and true with the plucking of an acoustic guitar amidst a backing of percussion.
BANKS harmonizes in an uplifting timbre along with the flowing beat, before diving into her beautiful lyrical cadence. Simply put, in its raw form, “Stroke” is refreshing and alight with quirky instrumental twists that make for a lovely masterpiece.
Similarly, “Made Of Water” is reborn as a slow, piano-driven piece that highlights the full, deeper portion of BANKS’ vocal range. In the chorus, her vibrato kicks in with a wavering effect as tambourine, acoustic guitar, and keys play the background. Then with “Drowning” she offers a dark, wispy experience with a vocal and lyrical boldness that mirrors its original studio version. Here, the instrumentation takes a back seat as the rhythm section is mainly controlled by a sweeping acoustic guitar, and a piano sways gently, filling the air with melodies.
Lastly “Contaminated” allows BANKS’ vocals to ebb and flow alongside the guitar in a patient and slow dance. As the chorus takes over, her voice comes alive in a stunning and raw mimicry of the track’s studio version. Echoing pops in the background play off the echoing crashes that happen afterward all the way into the crescendo of the track. And as the song comes to a close, BANKS continues in a breathtaking repetition of the final lyric, “Our love is tainted.“
Compared to the original studio recordings, the Live and Stripped EP songs are leagues of difference from their counterparts. Every sound is uncomplicated by its rawness, and the quality is lucid, as if BANKS is live and in-person. The instrumentation is simmered down to an ever-present acoustic guitar that offers both a sharp tempo perspective and a delightful musical ariose. Meanwhile, the piano work is often quieted but is free-flowing and sleek in a way that allows the powerhouse vocals of Banks to step out.
Overall, throughout the EP, BANKS’ vocal performance is limitless, and she flows from wordless harmonies to vibrato-laden high notes with ease and confidence, making the listening experience all the better. For this, Cryptic Rock rates BANKS’ Live and Stripped EP 5 of 5 stars.