Written by Molly Gorman
Listening to Jacob Banks soothes my soul.
I’ve been a fan of the singer-songwriter for a while now, notably around the release of his second album ‘Village‘ in 2018. ‘Love Ain’t Enough’ came up on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist and the rest is history.
His 2022 album ‘Lies About the War‘ only intensified my feelings about his music. With a more soulful, grounded feel to it than the slightly heavier produced Village, I’ve had it on repeat so much that it appeared in my Spotify Wrapped this year. The album marked Banks’ first independent release via his own label Nobody Records, and received a five star review from The Telegraph and high praise from The Times.
Born in Nigeria before moving to Birmingham, Jacob Akintayo Akinoso or as we know him, Jacob Banks, has attracted critical acclaim for his projects over the years. With over a million monthly listeners on Spotify, Banks began to garner attention when he won the 2012 MOBO UnSung regional competition in Birmingham. Following imminently, his debut EP ‘The Monologue‘ earned him the chance to support Sam Smith, Emeli Sande, and Alicia Keys on tour.
Influenced by a range of genres including soul, R&B, hip hop and rock and roll, Banks’ baritone vocals have softness, range and grit to accompany such meaningful, introspective and powerful storytelling. ‘Lies About The War‘ accentuates the variety of influences – ‘Won’t Turn Back’ exudes motown, soulful melodies, ‘Coolin’, featuring Adekunle Gold and Samm Henshaw has such warm harmonies perfect for a Sunday listen, while ‘Bang’, featuring US rapper Toby Nwigwe leans more notably to hip hop.
Banks delivers effortless live vocals that match, if not exceed the quality of the album recording. His performance felt all-encompassing and momentous – he commanded the space effortlessly and was complemented by electrifying guitar, a bass which sent vibrations into our chests, a more-stripped back piano and hollow drums.
‘Aim for My Head’ stood out for me the most as a drawn out ending with extra impetus for the live show showcased Banks’ phenomenal vocals. Feeling a notable shift in the atmosphere in the room of pure admiration, we stood with eyebrows raised and jaws open as he belted “oh, hey lover” to mark an almighty crescendo.
While grateful to hear almost all the songs from Lies About the War and others from his discography, I did miss ‘Our Song’ – a gentler, stunning duet featuring Anna Leone, which might just be my favourite. But instead, I was pleasantly surprised to hear an intimate and slower cover of ‘Swim Good’ by Frank Ocean, which he very much made his own.
Echoing sentiments about this album being inward looking, Banks presents himself as self-assured and focused on presenting his art to the world, as opposed to feeling the need to actively entertain a crowd with a huge set, or dialogue. When he does speak to his audience it’s to thank them for coming to see him, remind us to be kind to each other or to introduce a song, which he did for ‘Found’ from his 2021 EP ‘For My Friends’. Written about his late Grandmother, the lyrics are incredibly heartfelt (made even more emotive when you understand the true meaning behind them) and accentuated beautifully by soft strings. Banks said: “In African tradition we celebrate life, and this song celebrates my Grandmother.” Exploring grief throughout the lyrics, Banks allows the audience to find their own connection with the song, “So what do I do with this love saved for you? / What do I move to the space I held for two?”
Consistently met with roars of support and adoration from a captivated crowd, it was wonderful to see Banks bring his music to life at his live show and I’ll be keenly listening out for his future projects.