Banks “The Altar”- Album Review
On the surface, Banks doesn’t really express the lyrical, poetic stature (Lorde) or ritualistic, magnetic pull (FKA twigs) of her Alternative pop counterparts but manages to maintain her own enigmatic strife through her simplified, dark imagery and impressive vocal prowess. Banks’ sultry and often crackly, powerful vocals are one of her best weapons. On Better, which is easily one of her strongest efforts, she elegantly wails to the backdrop of a distorted vocal run before holding long, sustained notes; demanding”why” with such desperation mirroring perfectly the pain in her message; “I can love you better than she”. It’s unfortunate that the song was not included for the final cut of The Altar which dangerously set me up for very high expectation.
The album hasn’t received the most positive reaction on the critics circuit but I put that down to the music being more instant and hookier overall to her 2014 debut Goddess. Where Goddess kinda acts as the down-trodden more challenging listen with a slightly exhaustive 18 tracks, The Altar flirts with more uptempo, breezier numbers like This Is Not About Us, Fuck With Myself, Trainwreck and lead single Gemini Feed whilst still revelling in a dark undertone through the use of effective, layered vocal effect loops. Poltergeist hits instantly as one of her most tenebrous numbers, clambering over your shoulders like a sonic shadow as Banks claims through heavy, electronic groans that she saw a ghost. Lyrically she makes use of this menacing ghost as a metaphor for a lamenting ex which ties nicely to other tracks Haunt and Judas, all the while feeling like it’s all been heard before. Gemini Feed boasts her catchiest chorus yet. Lovesick, in all its relaxed niceness reeks of filler tendencies. To The Hilt is pretty yet struggles for the repeat button and Mind Games doesn’t quite reach the pinnacle heights it seeks out to climb despite considerable effort.
The most conflicting song is likely to be Mother Earth. Underneath its warbling and out of place, acoustic-led production is a rather alluring melody and album closer 27 Hours offers a dramatic finish with large, brash production and sharp synths marking the track as one of the early highlights. Overall The Altar sits as a polished dark-pop record from a talented artist who seems like she still has to prove herself noteworthy to an ever more demanding industry. Whether or not she is capable rests with the future but for me, Luna isn’t casting much doubtful light.