Going into this reaction I had never heard a single song from Banks. I had heard the name, and I knew she was a relatively new artist that had been gaining some traction and following, but that was about it. So I had no idea what to expect from The Altar, but off top, I was drawn to the overall aesthetics of the album, perhaps pointing to something a bit more grounded and eccentric.
The production on The Altar seems to be aiming to do for pop what artists like The Weeknd have done for R&B, by bringing a darker, more ethereal sound with touches of hip-hop and trap. It’s an approach that’s pulled off to varying degrees of success. “Fuck With Myself” is easily the best song on the album; the bouncy kicks and eerie strings make for a uniquely infectious sound. But then you have a song like “Judas” that’s all over the place with kicks, cymbals, and piano keys. I can tell where they wanted to go with it, but it sounded sloppy and like a cheap starter beat. Majority of the production wasn’t bad and there were some bright spots, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of it being more trendy than authentic.
“And to think you would get me to the altar Like I’d follow you around like a dog that needs water But admit it, you just wanted me smaller If you would’ve let me grow, you could’ve kept my love”
Vocally, Banks is probably passable at best and shaky at worst. It’s a fact she seems to know herself because rarely does she venture outside of her loose “rapping.” But when it comes to songwriting she has no reservations; not quite on Fiona Apple level, but everything about herself and her life are all laid to bare for the listener. She’s not afraid to delve both into her self confidence and vulnerability, and it humanizes her to a great degree. It’s art imitating life times ten and it’s the strongest part of The Altar.
Have you heard The Altar? What’d you think about it? Did you find it more trendy than authentic like I did? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to leave your rating for the album.
The Altar tries to bring an edge and darkness to pop that has some very hit and miss production that at times can feel more trendy than authentic. Her personal, vulnerable songwriting is the real highlight of the album.