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When Tove Lo came out of nowhere in 2014, she took the pop world by storm. Two years later, her sophomore record Lady Wood is out to do just the same.
Lady Wood shows a maturity of sound in Tove Lo; the poppier sensibility of Queen Of The Clouds is gone and replaced with more personal, evocative music. What remains is the flawless sense of melody that she has; nearly every track has a captivating melody that is often times elevated by atmospheric instrumentals; 'True Disaster' is an early example, the bouncing bass synths pound below Lo's dramatic vocals as the chorus introduces dreamier, smoother melodies, each reiteration adding harmonies that build on top of each other to create one climactic, sensual final chorus.
The radio pop sensibility isn't completely lost, though. The single appeal of 'Influence' is almost palpable, the badass yet subtle vocal line screaming sexual desire: "You know I'm under the influence / So don't trust every word I say / When I'm under the influence / It's a blur, but I want my way," her being under the influence of lust. Wiz Khalifa features for that extra flair, his verse elaborating on the club scene and how easy it is to pick someone up by being natural (for him, sure). 'Cool Girl' has wobbly synths and a brooding synth that bassily supports the track with more badass delivery, the swagger of Tove Lo's vocal being supported by the bouncing, epic synths in the chorus while she warns, "I'm a cool girl / Ice cold, I roll my eyes at you, boy."
You really come to appreciate that this album isn't written to be something for radio success. That's just a convenient by-product of the record. Not pigeonholing herself to one sound that would offer easy success allows for some fantastic songs, like the infectious 'Vibes,' the beautiful acoustic guitar line in the verses serving as support for Tove Lo and Joe Janiak's verses. The choruses are filled with cavernous bass and slightly distorted vocal lines like BANKS's signature. The end of the song comes to a brilliant duet between Lo and Janiak, making you wish that was more prominent in the song without taking away from its quality. Beautiful harmonies are the signature of 'Imaginary Friends' and its slowly expanding choruses. The energetic synths dance innocently above the groovy beat and atmospheric soundscape. The climax of the fantastic instrumental of 'Flashes' results in an epic, confident moment towards the end of the record before 'WTF Love Is' takes the record out on a groovy, albeit a bit underwhelming ending.
Tove Lo really stepped up her game on Lady Wood. She always came off as an artist who really didn't care about the standard as much as she did the message of her art, and that's always worth much respect. She took risks in this record and they definitely paid off for her. Lady Wood is a great record all around with few, if any, dull moments, and that's a big statement to make for a pop artist with such a reputation. It's full of desire and a lack of satisfaction, but in the sense that these are things she searches for rather than things she lets take over her - it's normally the latter for most artists who sing about it. She knows how to sing and what to sing to get her point across, and that's true talent. I already can't wait for the next record.
Favorite Tracks: Vibes, Imaginary Friend, Cool Girl, Flashes
Least Favorite Tracks: WTF Love Is, Lady Wood
Rating: 86 / 100
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
BANKS, the queen of pulsing synth chords, is back. Her sophomore record The Altar is approaching, slated for release on September 30, and she has released the next single from the record. 'Mind Games', a big track with a demanding message.
Beginning with vocals processed through a vocoder, the track hauntingly builds into a quiet somber piano under BANKS' pleading vocals. The chorus is brought in with a more threatening synth beginning to swell as BANKS becomes more passionate in her words and delivery. The entire song swells and flows into one big climax before ending on a quiet note to end it out on. The quiet reprieve almost sounds like a defeat, and given the message, it's pretty heartbreaking.
In the track, BANKS signs of a relationship in which she was used. The song begins with her woefully recalling, "That you would love me better if I could unscrew all of your moods that make me wanna run away," the message already clear and understood as the track begins. It goes on to speak of the nature of an abusive relationship; she wants to leave, but in her eyes, her partner is perfect, and if she leaves, "I’m scared I won’t find other muses / Cause I know you like golden days." The choruses plead: "Do you, see me now?" It's the final straw - this song is the breaking point.
BANKS' new album is progressively becoming more and more developed. 'Mind Games' is a big track, and an important one, for sure. The Altar is building up to be a very personal record for her. BANKS isn't holding back.
Rating: 80 / 100