Banks The Altar

Banks The Altar
6
As an artist, Banks is still feeling out who she wants to be. Born Jillian Banks, the Cali-based singer-songwriter's 2014 debut Goddess mined the "trap soul" and alt-R&B minimalism of the day; this time out, she offers a more pop-oriented edge to the musical proceedings. Banks sounds polished on The Altar, but ultimately can't escape the fleeting confectionary vibe throughout.
 
On the positive side, Banks has grown as an artist and maintains creative control across these 13 tracks, including catchy songs like the uptempo "Gemini Feed" and the slender groove of "This Is Not About Us," which both demonstrate Banks' growing command of melody and lyrical structure. Elsewhere, the on-the-nose "Fuck With Myself" draws you in with its detached intimacy, the standout "Mind Games" is driven by a twitchy energy that's affecting and "Trainwreck" is applicably brassy and bold. 
 
But the R&B-lite acoustics of depression psalm "Mother Earth" overreach, and "Poltergeist" is utterly unremarkable. This sophomore effort builds off her debut, but loses the plot in a mass of electronic blackness and vague grievances. (Universal / Harvest Records)