“Tell me what you want from me. I think you need a weaker girl, kinda like the girl I used to be,” sings Banks on “Weaker Girl,” with a voice that is both reflective and self-assured. The song is from The Altar, Banks’ new album due September 30th on Harvest Records, and embodies a new kind of strength for the artist--not one that she didn’t have before, but that she’s now embracing in full.

When Banks broke out with 2014’s Goddess, she became the world’s most blogged about artist, with a voice compared to the likes of Fiona Apple, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill, and a sound that took alt-pop and R&B to electrifying new places. With every song written and controlled creatively by Banks, The Altar pushes those edges even further, and pulls no punches. It’s an inspiring confrontation of complicated love, pain, and self-doubt.

The album opens with Banks alone on piano, her voice distant and reverberant. “And to think you would get me to the altar,” she sings on “Gemini Feed.” “Like I’d follow you around like a dog that needs water. But admit it you just wanted me smaller, if you woulda let me grow you coulda kept my love.” And then grow she does--the song swells with core-shaking beats, and her stirring voice turns resolute: “Open up your eyes.”

Nowhere is Banks’ fearless self-confrontation more evident than in “Fuck With Myself,” which Zane Lowe premiered in July as a Beats 1 “World Record.” “I fuck with myself more than anybody else,” sings Banks, cutting through propulsive beats and ominous grooves. In the powerful, jarring video she dances and struggles with contortionists wearing her image. “In the video I'm looking in a mirror, because it's like looking at myself with open eyes. My hair is not in my face anymore. I feel less scared to be seen.”

On the haunting, slow-burning “Mind Games,” she challenges us to do just that: “Do I ever have to notice? I’ve been standing here and I don't know why. Did you ever even see me try? Do you see me now? Do you see me now? Do you see me now?”

Other songs on the album like “Mother Earth” are fearless in their vulnerability--led by strings and acoustic guitar, Banks sings “Follow me to my bed, cause every time you fall I'll be holding your head up. And when will you get tired of feeling bad? And every time you fall, follow me.”

The album, which features collaborations with producers and writers including Tim Anderson, SOHN, DJ Dahi, and Jenna Andrews, was driven by Banks’ deep, insistent need for raw expression and solace.

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