Artist’s indie-darlings patented sound is lost thanks to overused audio tricks
By Alex Woodliff, Staff Writer
For most musicians, it is their sophomore album that actually guarantees staying power, not their debut album. The second album can be extremely tricky for most artists. Do they do a repeat of their first album or try something new? Repeating is unfortunately what happens here with artists Banks sophomore effort, “The Altar.” It was released Sept. 30 under Harvest Records.
Two years off from the release of her debut album “Goddess,” Banks continues on with a similar sound. Banks, whose real name is Jillian Rose Banks, is currently filling a spot left open by similar sounding indie singer Lykke Li. She has also been contrasted to Ellie Goulding. The moody digital alternative R&B from her first album is even stronger in this one, with a high gloss production that ultimately hurts the finished album. She worked again with the producers behind “Goddess,” Tim Anderson, SOHN and Al Shux.
There is an over reliance in music today with audio tricks and instruments that overpower a good artist vocals. Banks, like Lykke Li has been classified in many genres including R&B, pop, indie and alternative. Much like “Goddess,” her confessional way of pinning lyrics shines on “Altar,” too much heavy production outshines her vocals. With lyrics displaying a rising temper throughout, “Alter” never really reaches a boiling point. A few of the standout tracks include “F*** with Myself” an assertive piece that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Rasping over heavy digital distortion, Banks sings “So I **** with myself more than anybody else.” Banks newfound aggressiveness works with this new album, having admitted to going through some rough patches and depression in interviews during its production. Even though she has finally found her voice lyrically, it is almost lost in the electronic instrumentation used so heavily by her chosen producers.
Banks reveals herself to be in a tug of war throughout the album. Strong and independent on tracks, “Gemini Feed” and “This Is Not About Us” to admitting that she needs someone on tracks like “Lovesick’ or feeling like a shell of a person in “Haunt.” It’s just the production that meddles with it as a whole concept. Tracks such as “This Is Not About Us,” “Judas,” “Weaker Girl” and “Lovesick” finds the singer confronting a jilted ex lover who is using their own issues to tear her down. These three are the strongest on their own but cannot support the album as a whole. Another track that is notable is “Weaker Girl.” This song features Banks telling an insecure partner “Tell me what you want from me/I think you need a weaker girl/Kind of like the girl I used to be.” This lyric is revealing a personal growth that occurred between her albums.
While not a fantastic album as a whole it still contains a few good tracks. Ultimately, that is not enough to save it and re-using her first album as a blueprint instead hurts it. While a talented lyricists and singer it is like the producers took everything that they did on the first album and just doubled up on it. Especially in terms of audio distortion and electronic instruments in substitution for in-studio musicians. This unfortunately drowns out Banks voice, which is strong enough to be at the forefront. Playing it safe by giving audiences more of the same does is not necessarily a good thing though. Banks is currently on limited tour in North America before heading to Europe to support the “The Altar.”