It’s easy to understand why Jillian Banks is so frequently grouped with the burgeoning avant-R&B movement. Her debut album, like the pair of EPs she’s released so far, is full of the murky electronics and jittery, off-kilter rhythms that define that style, and her singing does have an R&B-ish bent. Really, though, she’s more of a straight-up pop artist, just with darker-than-average tastes. Goddess opens strong with ”Alibi”(produced by Christopher Taylor, who makes fantastic future-soul music under the name Sohn). It’s a narcotic slow jam with a churning bass line, fidgety programmed percussion, and manipulated vocal samples, but the part she sings — bracingly direct and just a tiny bit torchy — would work equally well paired with a bubbly EDM beat.
Banks’ sonic ambition and willingness to risk alienating a pop audience with Goddess‘ gloomy, tweaky beats are admirable. (They also make for a great headphone experience.) But ironically, the album’s most arresting moment is also its most conventional. ”You Should Know Where I’m Coming From” has a dead-simple arrangement — just vocals, piano, strings, and drums — that’s an ideal setting for her rawly emotional lyrics and strongest melody yet. The other songs may be more fashionable, but this one fits her best. B+