Jacob Banks, “Village”

Jacob Banks
Village
INTERSCOPE
7/10

Birmingham’s Jacob Banks isn’t slowing down. Since 2013, the Nigerian-born singer/songwriter has released three EPs, graced festival stages at Coachella, SXSW, and Lollapalooza, and opened for big names like Alicia Keys, Emeli Sandé, and Sam Smith. Now, Banks is cranking up the momentum with his full-length debut, Villagea fourteen-track genre-bending project blending hip-hop, neo-blues, soul, and R&B.

Banks doesn’t ease listeners in—he dunks them. An updated version of his song “Chainsmoking,” first included in The Boy Who Cried Freedom EP, kicks things off, a dubstep beat livening up the bluesy confessional, exploring the insatiable obsession associated with falling in love. Songs that tell tales of romance, failed flings, and overcoming loss follow, creating a cohesion centered around the universal experiences of twentysomethings.

Delicate instrumentation adds pleasant texture to Village: Listeners will catch glimpses of the trumpet (“Mexico”), hints of violin (“Kumbaya” and “Unknown [To You]”), and bouncing piano riffs (“Prosecco” and “Caroline”). But perhaps the most distinguishing instrument here is the chanteur’s baritone itself. Like a good brandy, Banks’s voice will warm your core.  

Admittedly, a couple of tracks seem like filler. In “Love Ain’t Enough,” over-production creates chaos: Rushed piano chords and booming percussion transition into a reggae riff that feels a little out of place. Regardless, even Village’s lower points showcase the risks that Banks is willing to take. And during the album’s emotional high points—like the refrain in “Be Good to Me,” where he issues a vulnerable plea for a lover to treat him tenderly—Banks could make even the most stoic of listeners shiver.

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