Two stellar EP’s later, Banks finally blesses us with an LP, Goddess, that unfortunately proves to be another “safe” release to add to the shelves of the incredibly average and dull year of 2014.
Now, that might sound a little harsh, but allow me to preface that with some kinder truths. Banks caught my attention early last year when I heard her as a part of BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe’s afternoon mix, and ever since hearing her voice it was love at first note and its fair to say I developed a massive appreciation for both of her 2013 projects, Fall Over, and London. Both were refreshing and consistent in their own rights, and had slid into my regular rotation. London as an entity itself was shaping up to be a prologue of sorts—a precursor to something much more amazing and flawless to come. However, whatever sentiments and feelings of sheer refreshment and cleansing that was to be had with her 2013 EP, her debut album Goddess, suffered from the syndrome of batting second. The blatant reality is that outside of being a sonically pleasing album, Goddess doesn’t have very much going for it. Cascaded and drowned in the spaced-out, cloudy synth beats of yesteryear, Banks’ flat, gentle vocal performances does little to save this project from the ordinary.
The first half of the album is one that seems like one long smear of Clams Casino or Shlohmo throwaway beats, with songs like the intro, “Alibi” and “Brain” being as sonically insipid and tedious as possible. Lyrically, though, when she sounds good over these instrumentals it’s because she’s doing her best Kiss Land-era The Weeknd impression. The first portion of the album does have it’s saving grace, though, but only when it’s as acoustic as possible. Banks’ cadence works well over the authentic, acoustic “Waiting Game”, and her songwriting is glaringly prominent and honest as well, as she pens personal declarations like “I wanna lean on your shoulder/I wish I was allowed but I don’t wanna cause any pain”. It is these personal glimpses that remind me of the appeal of her EP’s, and how her honesty in her writing was very striking and transparent. “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From” is also an acoustic, raw beat, but her vocal performance here is undoubtedly a standout on the project. It is one of the few gems on the record that I can only wish she emulated more often on this LP.
Still, she chooses to replicate her recycled neo-R&B sound for the duration of the album, and it only ends up paying off a few times. Through the murky, average tempos of “Stick” and “Someone New”, gems like “Drowning”, a suffocating, sensual song that uses the sharper side of her style, and “Change”, which sports a beat that sounds like a song we forgot about on the xx’s album, yet she chooses to dance and play with a pop-melody as she bobs up and down on the gentle, serene chords. “Warm Water” sounds eerily similar to the Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream smash “Adorn”, but it is still an interesting song as she chooses to once again tap into her poppy songwriting abilities to make it catchy enough to enjoy.
That is where the highlights stop for this LP, however. Banks definitely falls not to mediocrity, but to the familiar, plastic remains of the R&B innovations of years past, following in a tradition of disappointing albums from anticipated artists in 2014. It is a sincere hope and wish that Banks uses this album not to be looked upon as a failure or shortcoming necessarily, but a stepping stone to something greater. At the end of this project, it doesn’t exactly leave you disappointed because of what she did do, it’s more of the omission of what she could’ve done. Goddess was lacking innovation, inspiration, and the invigorating qualities that her past projects held close to their chest.