“And I’m chugging along in a train.
And I’m heading the wrong way, and I’m a trainwreck”
Since it came out, I have religiously, ritualistically and obsessively listened to The Altar by Banks every single day. I listen at work- her voice can sometimes tame my panic attacks. Not always. But after I’ve had one, her voice provides this level of security that I guess, I need. Her lyrics have always been a massive thing for me. She has this brutal honesty that is so fragile- it can break the person listening. Goddess came out in 2014, prior to that a couple of EPs. Everything she’s released has been nothing short of ahead of its time. She’s ahead of us all. There’s no one quite like her. She’s my kind of strange. The kind that delves into what others want to distant themselves from. Her words are gut wrenching, heart breaking and truthful. It is okay to have these feelings, it is okay to explore and expose how you feel. Music is a safety net. Goddess was my safety net when it came out. The Altar is exactly the same. There’s something about her that draws you in. I don’t have the words for it, but my god she’s out of this world.
I try to avoid doing track by track reviews, but some records bring it out of you. Sorry!
Gemini Feed: I’m sorry now for going on about how important the lyrics are and how with this record she takes it darker. I love the attitude she has on the chorus, “And to think you’d get me to the altar.” She finally sees what a piece of work this asshat is and lets them know they have no chance. As if she’d want that kind of forever, that commitment with them. I love the line, “If you would have let me grow, you could have kept my love.” When someone hides you away or doesn’t let you be the person you are, they lose you and rightfully so. If they saw you for what you could be, maybe they’d still have you. Tough luck, right?!
Fuck With Myself: The song is equally as strange and as brave as the video. This shows Banks really go for it with respect to her exploring her sound. This is the sound of someone really pushing themselves but still holding onto what they are known for- their honest lyrics. She’s not going to let someone fuck her over again, she knows her worth and if you can’t see it, then you don’t deserve her.
Lovesick: One of her most pure songs of love and adoration. The way she expresses how much she loves, wants and adores this person is so beautiful. This has this beautiful and gentle feel to it like Fuck ‘Em Only We Know has. I think the line, “I knew your love before I kissed you” is one of the most unconditional declarations of desire and love I’ve ever heard. I could quite happily write an essay on this song and probably that one line, but I think the song explains itself. It’s so exposed in a way that just leaves you in awe.
Mind Games: Mind Games is brutal. It’s exceptionally harsh to the core. You can sense the hurt and betrayal in her voice. It possess a wealth of hurt that makes you flinch slightly at certain lines. The way she sings, “Do you see me now?” I think we can all relate to where we leave something, and someone else realises what they are losing (maybe) and you wonder if they ever noticed the times you tried and the times that were trying. This used to be such a hard song to listen to, but lyrically it’s one of her finest.
Trainwreck: Today she released the video to it. I really thought she couldn’t push herself further than she did with the Fuck With Myself video, but Trainwreck is on a different level. It’s easily my favourite off The Altar. I can’t count how many times I play it a day and how many times I’ve played it since September. I can’t pick out specific lines, I really can’t. It just perfectly expresses the demises of something that’s beyond repair and a person that’s beyond fucked up. The music and the lyrics fit so perfectly together. It’s a brilliantly produced record, and this song in particular shows how great the production is. This is the one I am most looking forward to seeing live in March.
This Is Not About Us: It wasn’t until recently that I paid this song the attention that it really deserves. I changed my mind on it because I read the lyrics before going back and listening to it. It picks up perfectly on relationship issues some have and that sometimes the issues aren’t you and the person, it’s something entirely differently and Banks goes into it in a way that some would rather shy away from than confront.
Weaker Girl: The way in which she sings the word “motherfucker” is one of my favourite moments on the record. This is easily one of the strongest songs on the record, obviously I love every song but this one is so tough and you know that although she exposes this vulnerable side- she’s tough too, and that side isn’t to be messed with. It’s the kind of song that’ll be nothing short of euphoric when she plays it live (I hope she does.)
Mother Earth: She released The Altar the day after I saw The Kills in Manchester. I remember listening to this song first, and the high I was on from seeing them and meeting Alison ended as soon as I listened to this. I don’t think I even played it in full. This is one of the most open songs on the record. Songs like Someone New and Under The Table from her first record are painful but beautiful. Mother Earth is exactly the same. This song shows how strong her voice is, how brilliant a writer she is. Her voice cracks at the right parts- the parts that need emphasising. It’s such a haunting song, and at times it is tough, really tough to listen to but the words are just wonderful.
Judas: This is one of the harsher songs on the record and you can really hear the disappointment in her voice, it’s like she’s singing it through gritted teeth in some parts. The way she projects hurt and betrayal is so beautifully executed. For me it’s all in this line, “Reminiscing all the backwards ways you made me stay. Begging me for thread, I think you need to change your brain.” I love how she references to exceptional songs from Goddess, and maybe these three songs are about one person in particular. That’s how you’re left thinking.
Haunt: This is another really open song, lyrically. The words are so full of hurt and such heavy sadness but she writes about it in a way that’s reassuring. I think it’s because she freely and easily calls the person out for hurting her. She’s openly saying it would have been better if the person cheated because that kind of hurt is easier to get her head around. Instead, this person is just a shitfest and they repeatedly haunt her, as she knows waiting for them just isn’t worth it anymore.
Poltergeist: Banks manages to really portray her hurt and anger in a way that is done purely through her voice. It’s not what she says, but how she says it. She effortlessly let’s her hurt out in her songs that makes you connect in all ways possible. She does it so well on Poltergeist and it is one of her most cleverly written songs, especially in the way she calls this person out. I think with this one she’s exposing Industry type idiots. The ones who just want something and don’t know how to deal with being challenged. Banks isn’t someone to mess with, and she expresses that so elegantly on this one. I love the line, “You mistaking all my mistakes for my crooked nature.”
To The Hilt: This one is on the same level as Under The Table and Someone New. It’s got this wealth of sadness to it that just breaks you. The sense of loss in this song is overwhelming. It’s an overwhelming song. When you listen to this through headphones, you can really pick up on her voice and she makes you feel as if you’re the one that she’s lost. There’s nothing worse than losing the one person that no matter what, believes in you. Trust me. But sometimes, years have to pass before you get them back and you get them back in a better way. Personally speaking. To The Hilt is one of the best songs Banks has written so far. It’s the ones that are the toughest to listen to that are the best because she really hits you in the gut with her words, and her vocals on this are so brave and so powerful. It’s truly one of the best things she’s done so far. It slowly builds and builds, and when it gets there- she gets you. She has you gripped.
27 Hours: There are three songs on this record that I play more than others- Lovesick, Trainwreck and this one, 27 Hours. This is perfect to end the record on because it has you playing it all over again. Maybe that was her intention, but this song again is another that shows how strong her voice is and how far she’s come since her EPs and probably Goddess was just a hint of what she’s about. It shows how destructive a person is, and the other person isn’t budging and she can’t work out why; “How can you not walk away after everything I’ve done?” It feels like she’s stuck in destroying things and can’t get out of the vicious cycle of doing so and is unsure how another person can stick with her for doing so. By no means does it feel like a love song, but maybe it is. Banks isn’t conventional and her kind of love songs are dark. Very dark and they’re the best ones. They are the ones that are easier to connect with.
The Altar is a body of unfiltered confessions, declarations and a comfort blanket. Her voice has gotten stronger, her writing cuts even deeper and is braver. She’s not afraid to be so open and vulnerable. She allows us to be fragile with her on the songs; this is a powerful connection and is truly a phenomenal record.