By now all of us should know the key to having a blooming career is to not get too comfortable, as with comfort comes idleness. Switching up the way you sound as your career progresses is seen as entering dangerous territories, though BANKS has never been one to follow the rules, and felt this is exactly what was needed of her to win over the people that doubted her the first time round.
The hype for BANKS’ debut record Goddess was slim, this was mainly due to the opulence of promotional singles released beforehand. Two years on and after only a small taste of the new album it seems as if she’s learned from her mistakes, this time round allowing us to dive into The Altar expecting the unexpected
A re-introduction at its finest; the lady we were familiar with back in the Goddess age is not the lady we’re talking to now. Here lies an unapologetic Jillian Banks, tearing the heart of her latest ex-lover in two. The chorus hits us with the line “And to think you would get me to the altar…” suggesting she’d just overcome the toughest heartbreak of them all. Gemini Feed is a mouth-watering jewel from no other than SOHN himself. Don’t fix what isn’t broke… and in this case the pair bring nothing but consistency to the table.
Fuck with Myself
There’s an underlining meaning expressed throughout this record; the expression being ‘growth’, something Banks has hinted at many, many, times before the album campaign had even begun. Fuck with Myself was the first taste we were given of The Altar, served to us on a gallant and rather heroic platter. Doing a complete 180 on the sound we’re all used to, BANKS paints her growth throughout the duration of the track, stepping out of her comfort zone and dwindling into the twilight.
Lovesick is an ode to a new stranger in BANKS’ life, or maybe even a note to herself. Her heart is left firmly on her sleeve once again, “Would you be down to spend all your time with me?” – with arms wide open, BANKS unlocks her mind to the possibility of new beginnings ahead.
A fragile Jillian stands in the centre, bearing all to make herself known. “Do you see me now?” is repeated over and over, almost like a hollow cry for help. “You claim I’m a handful, when you show up all empty handed” she speaks about her relationship (perhaps the one formed during Lovesick) being entirely one sided, her being the one to put in all the effort and gaining nothing in return.
Sensuality thrown out the window, Trainwreck’s is by far the most bizarre piece of music BANKS has even laid her voice on. If you thought Jillian was a timid girl-next-door character you were most definitely out of your mind. Full of confrontation and sturdy attitude, placing this trap-like track in after Mind Games may be the most genius thing BANKS has ever thought of.
This Is Not About Us
A classic ‘it’s not me, it’s you’ moment. “I see you clinging to your pinch of hope, trying to get up in my bed, you should be thinking of a way of moving on instead,” Here we see a continuation of the ferocious behaviour let out in previous tracks, whatever fucked up events the pair got themselves into she wants to make it known she’s the one with the upper hand and power over the other.
Following on with the theme of self empowerment that Fuck with Myself introduced to us; Weaker Girl features a grand hands in the air moment with its chorus “Imma need a bad motherfucker like me.” The Altar’s stand out moment appears during the outro of the song, where an orchestrate come together to soar into the next puzzle piece of BANKS’ brain.
The sleek violin transition into Mother Earth is seraphic to say the least. The track takes on the role of Someone New’s wiser sister; the sibling that sees light in the dark, trading in the desperation we heard in Someone New into acceptance and moving forward.
Now we tread on ghostly land. The production itself is spine-chilling, with unsettling lyrics only complimenting the instrumentation. If there’s one thing BANKS excels at its creating unnerving atmospheres within her songs; lyrics such as “I find all your skeletons, a closet full of bones” only adding a sense of intrigue.
In a strange way, Haunt continues the supernatural theme although this time round feels and sounds more colourful. The intro suggests we’ve been lead into an enclosed swamp, accompanied by tribal dancers. BANKS sings about past memories haunting her mind; repetition of lyrics throughout advocates the action of the ‘haunting’ occurring like a cloud of dismal smoke gradually expanding in her head – memories she fails to discard.
It’s hard not to lose yourself in the invasion of trap and R&B beats that attack from the very first second, however it also acts as the final blow from the supernatural trilogy – the grand finale. “I’ve been getting messages from my deep waters” – Possible water metaphor reference to past tracks Warm Water and Drowning, or this is just BANKS announcing her third eye powers to the world.
To the Hilt
It’s not uncommon that the industry can be wicked, though it is uncommon for artists to make a statement about it in their lyrics. To end the album on such a sombre note is a brave tactic; we’ve heard BANKS’s angsty side throughout the entire record, but in all, she’s as raw as an artist comes, and To the Hilt exhibits the trembling emotion in her voice faultlessly.
Whilst To the Hilt ends with resolution, 27 Hours is where BANKS belts for one last moment of clarity. An excellent rounding off of the journey The Altar took us on, and now that the ride is over a brief moment of reflection is in order.
If the artwork hadn’t already given it away, no one should’ve expected any gimmicks from The Altar. Any past façade has now vanished, and for once we’re seeing the unhidden, uncensored version of Jillian Banks from Los Angeles.
The Altar stands as a cohesive body of work that stays true to oneself, unafraid of diving into the frightening unknown. Over the course of the record a story is illustrated; moments of solitude and glimpses of lust. BANKS is a storyteller and she’s proved that with her songwriting capabilities. The Altar makes you feel like you’ve known Jillian since you were little kids, and when you get together to discuss what’s been going on in your lives you’d just sit in silence, because each experience and single detail she murmurs is as fascinating as the next, and to miss out on a second of it would feel like you’ve just committed the most unspeakable of crimes.
Verdict // 4/5
Words by Jordan White
Imagery by Glenn Aubenfeld