Jillian Banks makes music that repays repeat listens. Sure, the L.A. native’s alt-R&B bops can be catchy – her most-streamed song, ‘Beggin For Thread’, almost sounds like something All Saints could have recorded. But they’re also filled with intricate production details and semi-cryptic lyrics that seep deeper into your brain the more you play them.She trailed this third album with ‘Gimme’, an electro-R&B track that recalls the late-noughties work of Timbaland associate Danja, featuring the fierce line: “You can call me that bitch.” But much of ‘iii’ is less straightforward, offering snapshots of a relationship (or relationships) that seem dysfunctional and possibly destructive.
“You want me to stroke your ego”, Banks sighs on ‘Stroke’, a song about falling for a narcissist, which pairs featherlight melodies with crunchy, near-industrial beats. The glitchy chamber pop of ‘Till Now’ could be interpreted as a rejection of a coercive relationship. “You put your words in my mouth till now”, she sings defiantly. And ‘If We Were Made of Water’ features a pretty damning expression of sexual regret: “When you asked me if I could fuck you / When you asked me I should have said no.” Even the deceptively perky pop of ‘Alaska’ hints at a twisted dynamic. “You could put me in your pocket”, Banks sings teasingly, “Wouldn’t you like that?”
Although Banks’ darkly seductive music sounds nothing like Lana Del Rey’s glacial alterna-pop, the two artists have a similar ability to refine their own distinctive sound while working with a palette of collaborators; here, Banks teams with Miguel, Florence and Adele producer Paul Epworth and Kanye cohort Hudson Mohawke, among others. She even duets with offbeat electro-R&B artist Francis And The Lights on ‘Look What You’re Doing To Me’, one of her most upbeat moments yet.
‘iii’ is probably a couple of tracks too long, but Banks has created another supremely intriguing musical world filled with ear-snagging lyrics and quirky production flourishes: the lone dog-bark sound effect before the final chorus of ‘Gimme’ is a classic Banks touch. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion “that bitch” is a pretty apt description for her after all.