What’s that saying? “It takes a village”? Sure, then there’s Jacob Banks, who has stormed forward with the breathtaking, visionary sophomore album, Village, which despite its title feels like a singular force.
The 27-year-old Banks was born in Nigeria before moving to Birmingham, England at the age of 13. By 20, he’d started writing songs, playing guitar and dabbling in synths not long after. His breakout album, The Monologue, arrived in 2013, and further releases contained tracks that found its way into videogames or, in the case of his 2015 song, “Unholy War,” in no less than four tv shows.
It’s easy to see why. Banks' sound is sort of a retro-cool – a deep, confident soul sound with clear, easy African beats in some places, then there are other songs with dramatic synths and a jet engine baritone on others. Take the lead track “Chainsmoking” for example. It starts with a funereal drumbeat before gated guitars and synth sweeps take hold. Strings get added to the mix and small samples hide deep in the mix. It’s a style-shifting that doesn’t really sound like it should work, but it just does.
“Love Ain’t Enough” starts with a cascading backbeat and keyboards and sped up vocal samples. Banks sings with conviction – the beat doesn’t really overpower but curiously takes a reggae turn topped with ghostly ‘la la’ vocals above it.
There’s so much to like about Village – it’s an album that truly feels on the emotional spectrum. If you want a banger, there’s definitely a few (seriously, check out the slinky “Be Good to Me” featuring Swedish singer Seinabo Say), torch songs a la “Slow Up” and the John Legend sounding “Peace of Mind”. But then, of course, there is “Unknown (To You)”, which is a perfect distillation of Banks in four minutes. There is his imitable baritone, dramatic orchestral swells, atmospheric guitars, the heart-stopping vocal belt, and a soaring chorus replete with a choir. After the peak, the orchestra plays out. Village is a symphony alright – this is just an early one in what looks to be a career full of them.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.