Review: Banks Doubles Down On Her Emo Goth-Pop with “III” - Rolling Stone
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Review: Banks Doubles Down On Her Emo Goth-Pop with “III”

Jillian Banks pushes her sound into strange, scary, gorgeous new places with help from Francis & The Lights, Hudson Mohawke, and Sohn.

Steph Wilson*

Since her gothy 2014 single “Beggin’ For Thread” (“to sew this hole up that you ripped in my head”), Jillian Banks has stepped with a vanguard steering pop from butterflies and rainbows towards darker, weirder places. She doubles down on III, suggesting Billie Eilish’s graver older sis with a timely set full of menacing sub-bass distortion, suspended silences, grimey organ tones and digitally-abraded vocals. It’s a snow-globe of tainted love that makes the apocalyptic outside world seems near- manageable by comparison, a public service for that alone.

Banks is up for the fight, as the single “Gimme” makes plain, the singer “dripping for your love” and suggesting her lover “lick it from the ground” (she adds, helpfully, “You can call me that bitch”). Hudson Mohawke’s deep-space production magnifies the narrative mindfuck, as do her other collaborators, an emo r&b Who’s Who including Buddy Ross (Frank Ocean), BJ Burton (Bon Iver) and Sohn. Banks is clearly swinging for the avant-pop fences here: The distressed sonics get as extreme as Low got on last year’s Double Negative, albeit in much different context. It’s thrilling, emotionally gutting stuff.

Banks can still play nice: “Look What You’re Doing To Me” is an upbeat jam — suggesting a more psychedelic Whitney Houston — that matches her up with Francis and The Lights. “Hawaiian Mazes” and “What About Love” are Quiet Storm jams for the Rihanna era, with melodies sketched on keyboards, flickers of strings, and patches of musique concrete. Chill and sweet, they don’t necessarily suggest an improvement in her romantic situation, just in her attitude. Sometimes the best you can ask for.


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