Banks – The Altar (3 stars)

Banks – The Altar

Some heavy missteps mar the singer's follow-up album

Banks is an edgy person. She only ever wears black. She never uses her first name. She raps. There's a danger though, with the current vogue for cool, electronic pop that all those beats and synths leave the listener a bit bored. That's certainly the fate that befell Banks' debut album Goddess, lost amid 2014's flood of nonchalant female-fronted electronic pop.

Her second LP sees considerable improvement, navigating empowerment and anxiety whilst providing shiny, slick pop moments throughout. Promising new single 'Fuck With Myself' has Banks' voice swooning to and fro in a bold, taut take on self-doubt, whilst 'Gemini Feed' works up from a sombre piano opening to a remix-tempting refrain.

Similarly on 'Trainwreck' and 'Mind Games', disquieting songs about paranoia, regret and jealousy are disguised by chart-worthy arrangements whilst lyrics that would otherwise sound overwrought ('We were so depressive') are used as ammunition for synth-saturated bridges and chorus lines, keeping a potentially challenging album accessible.

Despite her foray into the territory of the authentic, confessional chanteuse, Banks makes some pretty heavy missteps. On 'Judas', her obsession with 90s R&B tips over into sounding like something that could have genuinely been released by Mis-Teeq, while on 'Weaker Girl', she tells us she's a 'bad motherfucker' which is absurd because her first name is Jillian.

The Altar is about four tracks too long, and minimalistic strings number 'Mother Earth' is not enough to relieve the sense of ennui that descends when you've been listening to over an hour of oppressive trap beats. Banks uses every weapon in the arsenal of the electro-pop siren – from mesmerising choruses, sultry, pulsing electronic beats and tales about relationships too complicated for Facebook – when what she really needs is to cut her material down.

Out Fri 30 Sep, on Virgin EMI.

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