Who: 26-year-old Los Angeles electro-pop songstress Jillian Banks has sent the blogosphere wild with her slick synth-pop, R&B ballads and is set to storm the charts when debut album Goddess is released in September. Turning to music to deal with her parents’ ugly divorce, BANKS was 14-years-old when she started messing around on a Casio keyboard and pouring her heart out in song. Despite being self-taught and unable to read music or fully understand what she is playing, her creations have made her one of the hottest young pop divas around and steadily built up a huge word-of-mouth buzz. Her refusal to use social media has created a sense of intrigue and mystery that is rare in these times, but she did put her phone number up on Facebook and is known to text back and forth with fans. She came third in the BBC’s Sound of 2014 poll behind Sam Smith and Ella Eyre and has since toured with The Weeknd, appeared on US chat show Jimmy Kimmel Live and picked up celeb fans in Katy Perry, Tinie Temper and Ellie Goulding.
Sounds like: “Dark bluish black with smoke and chants and fire and heart,” according to Miss Banks, herself – and who can argue? She grew up listening to the fragile folk of Fiona Apple and the strutting neo-soul of Lauryn Hill, Aaliyah and Erykah Badu, but was first discovered by British audiences and her soundscapes were crafted with London uber-producers Jamie Woon, TEED and Sohn. They sucked out any last remaining ray of Californian sunshine and laid-back, beach bum cheer, and wrapped her soaring vocals into fractured, nocturnal, post-dubstep beats and icy, trip hop slow jams. It all rouses into lung-bursting, cathartic crescendos, but it’s the haunting underbelly and cutting lyrical send offs that make BANKS such a captivating talent.
The Buzz: “A rich, complex blend of booming bass, backwards sighs, ghostly backing vocals and deep beats that seldom creep above heartbeat pace, with a voice that sounds like aniseed tastes, it skilfully assimilates both the noir moods of Tricky and Portishead and the subtly strange sonics of Dallas Austin and Timbaland.” Simon Price, The Guardian
Why she matters: The most blogged about artist of 2014 so far, BANKS makes smart, sassy pop music that stomps all over the current crop of electro balladeers. Whereas James Blake twiddles out snivelling, dancefloor tearjerkers and Ellie Goulding preens and squeals along to insipid, soulless Euro-pop, this is empowered, exotic, sonic R&B that twists and shimmers through a personal outpouring of angst. The album title Goddess also shows that inner-Grace Jones, as BANKS shuns pouting, lovelorn slush and becomes a teasing, power-tripping femme fatale on single Brain – “I can see you struggling/ Boy don’t hurt your brain/ Thinking what you’re gonna say/ Cos everything’s a game”. She’s an enigmatic, magnetic new performer that, for once, could live up to the hype.
For Fans of: Solange, Lorde, Bat For Lashes, Robyn, Ellie Goulding, La Roux, James Blake, Chvrches, The Weeknd, Grimes, Katy B, Florence and the Machine, EMA – and all things synthpop, R&B, neo-souland sophsti-pop.
Check out: EPs London and Fall Over, singles Begging For Thread, Before I Ever Met You and Brain -and a rather racy advert for Victoria Secrets lingerie that is backed by her track Waiting Game.