BANKS - Goddess

by Matthew Graham

A gloriously dark and atmospheric affair, BANKS’ debut, Goddess, is not one to listen to on a sunny Summer’s day. The Californian singer’s hauntingly girlish vocals float over guttural bass lines and powdery synths in this lamentation to isolation and lost loves. Indeed, Goddess thrives on the raw emotion BANKS pours into every track by laying her heart painfully bare. What’s more, the record’s production is impeccably slick with the gritty RnB blending seamlessly with pulsing electronic beats. Yet for all its musical and artistic integrity, as a form of entertainment, Goddess is sluggish, verging on depressing and ultimately very same-y. Despite all the hype she has amassed on the blogosphere, BANKS doesn’t quite cut it for me. I feel that Goddess, as an entirety, is an album to pick and choose from rather than to consume in one sitting.

That’s not to say that Goddess isn’t without a handful of stunning tracks. Beggin’ For Thread thoroughly captures the feisty side of BANKS with its murky, throbbing bass, and flecks of tinkling chimes. While Stick stands out as it plays on a sultry RnB vibe that echoes like a stripped-to-the-bone Timbaland production. There is also a pleasant house quality to Warm Water that quietly skips along in the background of the song. We are even treated to a track that verges on being upbeat in Fuck ‘Em Only We Know. It is in this one moment that the album takes a tentative step into somewhat sunnier territory, only to quickly shrink back into the penumbra that permeates the rest of Goddess when it finishes.

The latter portion of the album unfortunately slips into the slower ballad territory which comes across as rather self-indulgent and whiny. Change reverberates around itself lazily and achieves very little. Even during its almost choral crescendo, the attempt to be rousing ultimately fails. The end section of the album also brings in some other musical influences in an effort to breathe fresh air into itself. Someone New’s softly plucked guitar and vocal crooning is out of place and, while it has the potential to be a nice sounding song, it just comes across as dull. Meanwhile Drowning sounds like a Lana Del Rey off-cast. The main problem with BANKS is that I feel guilty criticising her songs because of the obviously deeply personal and melancholic lyrical content, even when I know that they are lacking in other areas.

Consequently, Goddess really split me in two on whether I enjoyed it or not. Before listening to the album I really wanted to like it. Indeed, the hype I had heard surrounding it was remarkably promising. However, having now experienced it my overall conclusion is that it is somewhat disappointing. What ultimately carries the album from start to finish is the flawless production which has created sections for BANKS to really excel in. What she can take away from her debut album is the knowledge that her integrity as an artist can’t be disputed. Not every singer has to be upbeat and up-tempo. But one thing I would recommend for album number two is to “Cheer up, love”.