Friday, April 15, 2022

Review: Serpentina • Banks



“I wrote you a melody, can’t you see that?” Jillian Banks reasons on “Holding Back,” a high-risk, high-reward cornerstone of her fourth studio album, Serpentina. Made just before an overblown, pitch-shifted choir of her own voice back-lights the song, it’s fitting declaration: Vocal melodies are what she does best, as she rattles her voice through dark alleys of alternative rhythm and blues music. On Serpentina, a record that favors the progressive rhythm and blue side of her artistry, she no doubt shapeshifts into something fascinating at each turn – even if her tricks have become a bit more predictable than before.

Like the albums that precede it, Serpentina catches Banks mid-collapse: Open wounds of love lost drip across an expectedly complex patchwork of vocoded vocals, piano, and heavy beats. As she melts down the post-chorus of “Burn” or grinds her voice against the electronic terrain on “Meteorite,” Banks thrives in her best musical environments. When she bounces between walls of spacey beats on “Fuck Love” and “Anything 4 U,” it’s evident she found her musical roots in late ‘90s rhythm and blues. Her DNA is all over this record – which leads to an album that is unmistakably Banks in her comfort zone, sparing her of the surprises and deviations from her strict roadmap that could have rocketed her into more challenging artistic growth.

Serpentina is available now via AWAL.

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Maira Gall