For an album titled Goddess, Jillian Banks’s debut starts off with a surprisingly self-deprecating mea culpa: “Please give me something to convince me that I am not a monster,” she sings on “Alibi.” It becomes evident early on that self-aggrandizement isn’t the Los Angeles singer-songwriter’s aim. Instead, the album deals almost exclusively with relationships—specifically their dissolution. “Everyone knows I’m right about one thing/You and I don’t work out,” she sings on “Before I Ever Met You,” which is what it might sound like if Fiona Apple and Massive Attack ever slinked out of their respective dark corners and decided to record a song together.
Banks’s voice has one of two modes: a sultry lower register like that of Apple, and a higher-pitched delivery that recalls Nelly Furtado’s more nasal timbre. But she succeeds at carving out her own niche, not just vocally, like when she scathingly belts out the pointed hook of the standout “Brain” (“I can see you struggling/Boy, don’t hurt your brain/Thinking what you’re gonna say”), but as an answer to the Weeknd’s debaucherous brand of PBR&B. In contrast to Abel Tesfaye’s chauvinism, Banks’s POV is decidedly, unapologetically female: “Now you gotta deal with this glitch on your shoulder/Fuckin’ with a goddess and you get a little colder,” she warns on the title track.
Several of Goddess’s tracks are carryovers from last year’s Fall Over and London EPs, which partly explains the deluxe edition’s daunting 18-track, 76-minute runtime. While they add some variety to an album that veers dangerously close to homogenous, Banks’s attempts at balladry, from the Justin Parker-produced “You Should Know Where I’m Coming From” to the acoustic and keyboard-based songs that close out the standard version, are generally forgettable. Where Banks excels is at fusing her pop sensibility with imposing synth pads and hip-hop beats, as she does on the album’s haunting centerpiece, “Waiting Game,” which is driven by both a plodding bassline and the singer’s siren-like harmonies. “I know my disposition gets confusing/My disproportionate reactions fuse with my eager state,” she admits on the infectious “Beggin for Thread.” Not exactly Top 40 fodder, but that’s exactly where Banks deserves to be.