NEW MUSIC NOW
Sure, Gaga, Usher and Bon Jovi (#alwaysliving onaprayer) are dropping records this fall, but make sure you don’t miss these hot alternatives.
You can’t tell by the soft, measured tone of her voice (over the phone in a hotel lobby, muzak-y piano tinkling in the background), but Banks finds discussing her new album, The Altar, like, the worst. “I feel really exposed,” says the 28-year-old Californian known in civilian life as Jillian Banks. “I feel like a flimsy piece of plastic being examined.”
Banks’ debut album, Goddess, was a critical favourite in 2014—even though its mesmerizing blend of R&B, electronica and girl-at-a-piano lyrical depth left people scratching their heads as to her genre. She started making music in her early 20s as “a singular, reclusive thing” that helped her process life. The cathartic effect continues with her second album, out September 30: “I’m often surprised by what comes out,” she says. “Certain emotions that I’ve tried to block out come bubbling up.”
She finds it kind of ironic, then, when complete strangers ask her to explain, in great length and detail, what her songs are about. “I write about these things because I can’t articulate them any other way, so to have to talk about them... it’s exhausting,” she says. “I’m a really private person.”
On this album, these “things” vary widely: There’s “Lovesick,” an unashamed lay-it-all-out-there invitation to a lover (with a spooky disco-y vibe); “Mother Earth,” which sounds like the very best of Aaliyah-era R&B gone acoustic; and “To the Hilt,” with its heartbreakingly raw sorrow. “I was sick for two weeks after writing that song,” says Banks. “My songs are parts of my body,” she says, when asked to choose the one she’s most proud of creating. “I can’t choose an arm or a leg to cut off.”
Listening to her describe her craft is actually a great introduction to the intensity and intelligence of her music. “This is me in sonic form,” she says. “This is the language I’m most fluent in. Music is my closest friend—the love of my life.”