NEW ALBUM: BANKS | SERPENTINA
The title of Banks’ fourth album, "Serpentina," speaks to a kind of reinvention. Conjuring up imagery of a snake shedding its skin, it’s fitting for a record that sees the Californian artist switch things up. This is the first time she’s released an album via AWAL, the Sony-back label that aims to help artists maintain creative independence; she takes complete control of the production, her trademark sound fused with new genres. This reinvention is coupled with resilience – "Serpentina" first started to take shape after a series of personal struggles. In 2019, Banks released her stellar third album, "III," but the ensuing tour proved brutal. Banks was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease – an autoimmune disorder – and suffering from a fractured spine, Banks found life on the road extremely tough. When she arrived home in early 2020, she suffered from anxiety attacks. Banks has curated a distinctive, electronic alt-R&B soundscape throughout her past three records: lush vocals and woozy production accompanying unafraid lyrics. Here, her signature sound benefits from new influences. The aforementioned "Spirit’" a collaboration with New York-based singer-songwriter SAMOHT, is a gorgeous, gospel-indebted cut; "The Devil," meanwhile, evokes the hushed electro-pop of Billie Eilish‘s ‘Bad Guy.’ The production is typically dramatic: trappy beats are combined with bleeping synths ("Fuck Love"’) and chanted vocals gradually build over handclaps ("Meteorite"). For the most part, "Serpentina" is a welcome reintroduction to the artist and a cathartic ode to doing things her way.