London (EP)


Harvest/Good Years, 2013

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


In anticipation of Los Angeles singer-songwriter Banks releasing her debut full-length on September 5th (and because I’ve been obsessively playing the sultry, sassy “Beggin’ For Thread,” a single from that disc – more on that when the album drops!), I had to check out her arrival onto the music scene with her 2013 EP, London. Self-taught and self-release before her music found a following on Soundcloud, Banks (aka Jillian Banks) has been riding the wave of early acclaim, fueled by her coolly intimate songs. In the span of four songs and seventeen minutes on London, I was blown away by the stark beauty of her vocals and the cracked-poetry lyrics of these eerie, expansive soundscapes.

Opener “Waiting Game” is deeply intricate, floating on Banks’ ethereal vocals as it slowly morphs from piano ballad to a restless throb of instrumentation: buzzy synths, groaning melodies and hints of gasps in the background. This track crackles and almost boils over with energy, passion moving up against caution, as Banks asks, “What if I never see you because we’re both on a stage / Don’t tell me to listen to your song because it isn’t the same / I don’t wanna say your love is a waiting game.” Banks offers her heart up to us on this song but it’s in stutter and gasps; somehow, it’s both haunting and inviting. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That imploring to feel along with her is no clearer than on “This Is What It Feels Like.” Produced by actual Londoners Lil Silva and Jamie Woon, the track wraps Banks’ swooning vocals in eerie groans of bass and dreamlike synths. The lyrics are barbed yet vulnerable, describing what it’s like to get close to someone only to have them pull away. While Banks’ sound has been described as R&B, I find them to have a pop quality as well – but a catchy, accessible pop song that’s been blown out, shifted and seen from a different perspective, morphed into something grittier and more difficult.

Next up, the sweetly tentative “Bedroom Wall” is the least consequential here but it’s well-formed nonetheless. Banks can craft an elegant, fracture love song like the best of them. At times she almost reminds me of my perennial favorite songstress Dessa, both in the cadence of their vocals and the incisively insightful poetry of their lyrics. This is no more evident than on closing track “Change,” another striking standout of this release.

Her lyrics are sharp as daggers as she details a love gone cold. But the expected bite isn’t there; instead, her voice is slow and sensual, seeping like venom in its recrimination as she sings: “Because you like to tell me / How you hate all the ways I’m not enough for you / Then you’d say, ‘Baby don’t go, I’ll make you wait / I promise I’ll be better, all these things they’ll change’.” And somehow, the repetition of the chorus makes it become half-promise and half-distortion, encapsulating perfectly that tug between needing to let go and how hard it is to disentangle.

London is a breakout EP from a soon to be incendiary artist. Banks’ voice is strong in its vulnerability and delicate sensuality. Here is hoping that her impending full-length, Goddess, builds on the sound that burgeons, blossoms, and burns here on London. 

Rating: A-

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