Band: Banks
Album: Goddess
Best song: “Brain” is brilliant.
Worst song: “Warm Water” is not my favorite.

I first came across Banks because of her acoustic cover of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody” that was splashed across every music blog in the world over the summer. Being a huge fan of that song, I listened to that cover hundreds of times, along with the acoustic version of Banks’ song “Brain” recorded during the same session.

Before that, I’d never heard of Banks and I still know, basically, nothing about the singer. For all I know, she’s history’s greatest monster. The things I do know are things I love:

  • She likes Aaliyah enough to cover one of her biggest hits. This is awesome because – like any reasonable person with ears and a heart — I also love Aaliyah.
  • Her voice is exceptional
  • She is smart enough to do press with BBC. That means she is probably not a complete moron
  • She plays guitar. I like the guitar.

I don’t know if Banks is popular, as one of the joys of being detached from pop music is that I don’t know what’s huge and what isn’t (plus, the modern one is an era in which nothing is all that popular. Long tail and such.), but I know Goddess is a kickass record. Mixing tourmates The Weekend-like beats, Fiona Apple’s frankness and a Fincher-y soundtrack level of dark atmospheric sounds, the record is a lovely showcase for the superior vocal talent she showed on that cover above.

The chorus of “This is What It Feels Like” has the lyrical rhythm of a hip-hop track that so many vocalists could lose in the beats, but Banks hits them perfectly. “Brain” is the song with which I fell in love and it holds up four months later, as it apes downbeat pop music so well. It’s also delightfully condescending, as the chorus intones “I can see you struggling/Boy, don’t hurt your brain/Thinking what you’re gonna say.”

“You Should Know,” however, is the type of song that would get Adele hype for breaking molds and Banks nails it so perfectly. Driven by piano and her soaring voice, Banks sounds broken and alienated as she lays out her reasons for being the way she is. “Fuck Em Only We Know” is similarly disjointed and post-modern in its embrace of tech-y breaks, but with a wonderful romance to it. “Stick” has a hook-laden Kid A-meets-R&B thing that’s impossible to free from one’s head, while “Change” is more distant and cold (in the best way).

The popular criticism of Goddess is that the record doesn’t vary much in its beat structures or its murky sound. I would argue that’s simply a comment in support of the record’s consistent sound and greatness; she has her own thing and she does so many strong variations on the theme. Goddess shows the potential in her voice and I can’t wait to see what else she puts out next.

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