by: Jacob Banks

U.K. singer Jacob Banks took a long, slow road to his debut studio album Village, first releasing his genre-bending take on blues-indebted R&B on a 2013 EP and trickling out tracks and brief collections from there. While colorful and shifting styles have always been a part of Banks' music, Village offers the highest-definition presentation of his many approaches, as he plays with sonic switch-ups and wandering moods across the 15 spacious tracks. The album starts with the bombastic single "Chainsmoking," where Banks' baritone guides the aching song through a mesh of rocked-out blues and dubstep bass. This pastiche approach comes up a lot on Village, with several songs flitting between different musical modes and sometimes turning on a dime. "Love Ain't Enough" is perhaps the most intense example of this nervous genre switching, as Banks begins the tune as a bass-heavy blues-pop lament and ends it as a full-on ragga drum'n'bass, complete with breakbeat samples and dubbed-out deejay toasting. Moments of neo-soul, tropical pop, and dubstep show up from moment to moment and "Keeps Me Going" ties pop production to Nigerian rhythms, as Banks reflects on his early life there. When he stays on one page long enough, the results can be powerful. The dark and dramatic ballad "Unknown (To You)" would sound at home in a post-break-up montage of any big-budget romantic comedy, boiling heartbreak down into something accessible and immediate. The more subdued "Slow Up" reads like a letter from Banks to his younger self, hoping to impart everything he's learned over a beautifully atmospheric track. ~ Fred Thomas

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