Jillian Rose Banks is not a mortal being. She has always served as a host for the dark, shapeshifting ghoul of her music alter-ego BANKS, and for the most part, it's worked.
"For me, it's really just an intuitive thing," Banks said when asked how she designs her shows. "An atmosphere starts forming in my head." On "F**k With Myself," off the singer's severely underappreciated sophomore triumph The Altar, she sings plainly, "cause I f**k with myself more than anybody else." On "Poltergeist," she sings in glitchy autotune, "I started all the wars." Her brooding self-deprecation/obsession has in the past created projects with impressive stand-outs, but that as whole collections have felt melodramatic and never fully formed. As remarkable as The Altar was, it was not without its slow points. "To The Hilt" was just a drag, and "Trainwreck" was an apparent, unsuccessful attempt at branching out to attract more Hip-Hop enthusiasts. Now on III, BANKS still f**ks with only herself but invited some friends to help trim the hedges. The end result is a project that's more cohesive than anything she's crafted before and demonstrates that BANKS and Jillian Rose Banks are actually friends now.
Bon Iver's super producer BJ Burton helped make the album, and BANKS and Burton prove to be a match made in heaven. "He brings his unique bag of tricks—the Messina vocal harmonizer technique popularized on 22, A Million, the apocalyptic distortion that defined Low's Double Negative," wrote Pitchfork. The "tricks" they refer to add a tasty edge to a sound BANKS was forever striving for on Altar tracks "Poltergeist," "Mind Games," and "Judas." The album's opener "Till Now" is BANKS best song. The growls, the glitchy undertones, the cries for understanding, all of it exemplify the pinnacle of what BANKS is. Meanwhile, "Gimmie" is thick and hard-hitting, with BANKS sounding confident and standing tall as she sings: "you can call me a bitch!"
The momentum, unfortunately, slows by the halfway point, with "Look What You're Doing To Me" not quite achieving lift-off despite a well-placed guest feature from Francis and the Lights. Luckily, catchy bops like "Alaska" and "Propaganda" keep the project afloat, and "The Fall" pulls it all together as BANKS' most vulnerable track to date. The project is far from perfect, but the journey is part of BANKS appeal. It's about how openly she's navigated her artistic identity in the public view and is what makes being a fan of hers so cathartic and rewarding.