“It takes a village to raise a child.” It is this proverb that is the cornerstone of prolific singer-songwriter’s Jacob Banks’ long-awaited debut album, Village. For the soulful UK wordsmith, that village extends beyond the drawing of any particular geographic lines. The village that raised Banks is the world at large, and it is because of this that Village feels so universal. It is heard and felt in both the generations-old influences, modern inspirations, and comprehensive lyrical scope that have gone into this phenomenal debut. So, upon sitting down with Village, we thought it only fitting to explore some of its most personal yet universally-felt themes.
Village marks Banks’ most introspective work to date. It is through this lens that he interestingly enough explores some of the album’s most overarching themes. Openly speaking on the subject of love, heartbreak, fears, desire, and more, this is the most candid we have seen the UK artist to date and is partially what inspired this list. And while the core of Village plays out like an exquisitely-written memoir, the way in which Banks speaks about his lived experiences allows for anyone to find a connecting thread to their own.
Realized and Imagined Escapism
“Mexico” and “Caroline” both address the idea of escapism, albeit in vastly different ways. In the former, you’ll find a tropically-scored bittersweet number about getting away to Cancun. While in the latter, you’ll find a somber piano ballad where escape is found within and alongside another place. The underlying idea of escaping to sunnier realities is the same in each, but the way that Banks reconstructs the notion gives the listener something to find themselves in, no matter what sort of escape that may be.
Family and the Idea of Growing Up
For an album, full of deeply personal moments, its most prevalent one is the only instance not underscored by music. The opening to “Grown Up” opens on a voice message recording from who is expected to be Banks’ grandmother. It grounds the song and the whole of Village as a project firmly planted in reality, as the project of an artist transforming the reality before him into song. It’s a poignant and all-too-fitting introduction for a track that explores the idea of losing oneself as they step out into what is to be the supposed arena of adulthood.
The reimagining of the spiritual folk song “Kum ba Yah” will likely be the title that is readily most familiar to most listeners. Originally constructed as an appeal to God for help, Banks’ “Kumbaya” works in similar fashion. The song’s original folk nature is retained by a minimalistic guitar, which lends the entire number a feeling of timeless grandeur. The duet between him and Bibi Bourelly is a story of two broken people looking for salvation. It is an appeal to return to a time and place where life made more sense.
The Desire for Human Connection
From the opening track “Chainsmoking” to the closing number “Peace Of Mind,” the notion of love can be heard and felt throughout Village. By no means is Village a simple love or heartbreak album, but it is an album with Banks at its core. And how can one write about the human experience without the idea of human connection existing as a prevalent interweaving thread? What Village arguably does best when recounting experiences of love is its resilience against static depictions, painting a picture of the feeling that is as varied as the sentiment itself.
Tracks like “Chainsmoking” and “Prosecco” clearly nod to the idea of popular coping mechanisms and half-remembered nights, but the idea of drug-fueled inebriation is more common than one may expect to find on what is largely a soulful baring of one’s heart. In songs like “Nostalgia” and “Witness,” one will find ample references to the likes of alcohol, dealers, and pills. These referential moments are more of than not encompassed in clever allusions and metaphors that allow for commonplace drug usage to carry with it the weight of something deeper and more divine.
The Expansive Musical Influence on Display
Village’s all-encompassing nature is in large part a result of Banks’ impressive songwriting, but it is difficult to ignore his impressive and diverse sense of musicality. Throughout an expansive 14-track run, Banks explores African beats, heart-bearing soul, beach-inspired slow jams, modernized blues and jazz, and a host of other influences. The village that has inspired this stunning debut album appears to be all the people, experiences, and most of all, the music that has shaped Banks into an artist poised to weave together musical narratives that will affect the world at large.
Keep an eye out for our All Eyes On Jacob Banks performance coming soon!