One of the most interesting things about Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Jillian Banks’ debut album, Goddess, is how decidedly *not* top 40 it is. Listening to her songs, you can’t help but think “if only.” If only the beats were more boisterous. If only the bass pulsated in a punchier way. If only the tempo were kicked up a notch or two. If only there were more background vocals. The point being, she could have easily written these songs just a tad bit differently and had a handful of strong pop radio contenders. She could have been the next Lorde or Lana Del Rey. And, hey, maybe she will be. But she clearly doesn’t give a fuck. Perhaps she might rejoice if she did have a big breakthrough hit. She’s clearly not holding her breath, though.
Another thing you can’t help but think when listening to Goddess: this is one witty woman. Her lyrics play like highly intellectual poetry. “Please give me something to convince me that I am not a monster,” she sings in a piercingly high pitch during the chorus of the album’s haunting opening track, “Alibi.” “Something I should’ve known: that we were dead to me.”
Although several of the tracks on Goddess were previously released on the EPs Fall Over and London, there are still an album’s worth of brand new tracks here, the deluxe album being 18 tracks long, clocking in at a whopping 76 minutes. You might as well just call it a double album, considering how many artists are churning out 9 song “albums” of late, such as La Roux and Lykke Li.
Whereas the majority of Goddess’ tracks open with electro-tinkering, the Justin Parker-produced, “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From” begins with melancholic piano. (Sample lyric: “If I told you solitude fits me like a glove, would you let me out?”) But of course it’s melancholic: every song on the album is melancholic. They’re mostly all about break ups, too. To a point that they might feel ominous to someone who’s experiencing a “true love” or “perfect” relationship right now. However, if you’re going through a break up, there isn’t a better new album out right now.
“You try to lie / I can see that you don’t need me / All of your words, they’ve been cursed with dishonesty,” goes the beginning of the woman-scorned ballad “Drowning,” the bubbling Al Shux production of which sounds an awful lot like Bjork’s Homogenic. The track was inspired by Banks’ best friend, who was going through a particularly rough time, which Banks could easily relate to, being that she’s still writing about her first break up, which was eight years ago.
If there is a track on Goddess that doesn’t make you think “if only” so much and has the potential to be a hit, it’s “Beggin For Thread,” one of the pre-release singles. Here, the beats are jumpier, the bass bolder, her vocals louder. “So, I got edges that scratch / And sometimes I don’t got a filter / But I’m so tired of eatin’ all of my misspoken words,” she sings. “I know my disposition gets confusing.”
Another standout is the lovely, acoustic guitar-driven “Someone New,” a song produced by Tim Anderson that’s about still wanting to be with someone even though you need your space and have temporarily withdrawn from a relationship for a moment. “Baby, be patient for me / And please don’t fall in love with someone new,” she sings during the beautiful chorus.
Whether you’re an electro-pop junkie or simply a fan of intellectual lyrics, there’s little doubt that Goddess will be your album of the year. Even if you generally feel that electronic music is lacking in the emotion department, you’re likely to fall in love with this heartfelt record. In fact, it’s one of the most emotive releases to come out in years. It deserves to be considered in the same way one considers Portishead’s first two albums or Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. It is, undeniably, in that league.