BANKS made ripples in pop when her debut Goddess in 2014. After wallowing in the success, landing big tours with the likes of The Weeknd, she's taken it back a step with her followup The Altar, a very emotional and personal album.
There were a good few singles released following up to the record, much like Goddess. Of course there's the issue of hearing half of the album before it's released, but the songs seem to have a better context when on the record. The opener track is 'Gemini Feed', the raw piano and vocal intro providing a very revealing intro to the album. The single's mysterious synth and beat come into the song being backed by a brooding synth and BANKS' signature vocals with an underlying, deep vocoder singing below her. The song bares the line "And to think you would get me to the altar," from which the album gets its title from, as well as revealing the theme of the album: a direct message to her ex-lover of how she thought that he would bring her true love, only to be betrayed in the end.
Other singles include 'Fuck With Myself' with its weird vocals and the heartbreaking 'Mind Games', which we reviewed upon its release - check that out here. The album's closing track, 'To The Hilt', is also a single. The song brings the album full circle, its heartwrenching vocals atop the somber piano, singing about missing an ex, who she cannot function creatively without. The gentle vocals are raw and dramatic, taking the album on a beautifully emotional ending.
The core of the album has some meat to it. The song 'Trainwreck' in particular has a particularly badass sound to it. BANKS sings confidently above the thick bass beats with an urgent descending melody backing them. The song builds to massive proportions, the ending exploding with power. 'This Is Not About Us' also has some good vibes with it, having a cool vocal synth backing it. Some songs are great in a different way: the pretty builds of 'Mother Earth' allow for a pleasant listen, the symphonic outro singing out in a beautiful way, much like the ending of 'Weaker Girl'. Nice melodies and background vocals are the claim of 'Haunt', its weird guitar and Indian beat making for an interesting listen. The haunted them continues with 'Poltergeist', its haunting, creepy nature of the song accentuated by a creepy distorted vocal line and melodic choruses.
Not all tracks bask in excellence, though. There are some weaker moments on the record that stop it from being the best it could be. 'Lovesick' is one such example, its cliché lyrics and boring instrumental amounting to a forgettable listen. The premise of the album really isn't anything new, but the writing and instrumentals provide a unique experience on the subject that a lot of other albums of the kind miss out on. 'Judas' also falls into that boring, cliché line, while 'Weaker Girl' is just an overall underwhelming song saved by its string ending.
BANKS escaped sophomore syndrome with The Altar. The album surpasses its predecessor with a emotionally challenging and atmospheric listen, providing unique tracks that are defined apart from each other but all cater to the same idea. Her beautiful vocals and songwriting created a collectively amazing album, not free from error but full of passion.
Favorite Tracks: Trainwreck, Gemini Feed, Poltergeist, To The Hilt
Least Favorite Tracks: Judas, Lovesick
Rating: 81 / 100