Banks first played Coachella back in 2014 in support of her first album, Goddess. I can't remember how I heard about her, but I was curious to check her out. I don't think I'd heard the album yet, but I wandered into the Mojave tent, sat down in the sweltering heat, and waited.
As the band started, I thought it didn't sound like what I expected. By the time I realized that Banks was actually playing in the next tent over, it was three songs into Bombay Bicycle Club (who were mediocre at best) and I decided that maybe I should just go check out CHVRCHES instead. Yeah, I was a little fucked up, and I missed out on what I heard was a pretty amazing performance.
Bitchfork panned the first album, which I couldn't understand, because once I got home from Coachella the first thing I did was order the 2xLP of Goddess, and it was on my turntable pretty much constantly for months after that. When I heard she had a new one coming out (2016's The Altar), I was ecstatic. I managed to download the video for the first single, Fuck With Myself, long before it was supposed to be available, and played it in my most important DJ set of the year. Ears definitely pricked up when that one hit, some people knowing exactly what it was, others coming up to the decks to inquire.
When The Altar finally came out last September, I snapped up a copy, despite knowing it would be something else I'd have to pack for the move. Once again, it's been on heavy rotation. It's a much more focused effort than Goddess, and while it still covers a lot of territory and spans a dark rainbow of emotions, it's infinitely listenable, definitely danceable, and catchy as hell.
I have no idea why critics don't absolutely love her like I do, and I don't care. Bitchfork gave it the lowest review (51/100) while Sputnikmusic gave it the highest (98/100). Metacritic shows that the 17 critic reviews are "generally favorable" at a modest 70/100, the fan reviews put it at essentially 84/100, based on 113 reviews.
Add one more glowing review to that, mine:
A logical progression from Goddess, Banks' dark, mysterious and soulful style continues. She still spans a lot of styles, sounding a little abstract like Bjork or FKA Twigs at times (Fuck With Myself, Poltergeist) and more like an old soul spilling her guts at others (Lovesick) but it's a roller coaster of emotion all the way through. Those who say she hasn't grown or progressed as an artist aren't listening for growth. If they're looking for flaws, they're not impossible to find, but why focus on minor imperfections when you really should just be dancing?
Banks plays Friday, April 14 and 21, like just about every other fucking great artist this year (and every other year, pretty much). This will be the one must-see for me.