Banks Arcade – “A MUSE” [EP Review]

Review: Luke Petty

New Zealand’s own Banks Arcade are back, and this time, they’re baring their souls. Dropping their new EP “A Muse”  June 28, it’s a complete 180 from their last release, “DEATH 2”. Forget the face-melting riffs and cryptic lyrics – this time, they’re stripping things down and getting real. Buckle up for a journey of raw emotions and self-discovery.

Opening with “Alive” and jumping straight into a catchy intro,  it’s a clear departure from the band’s heavier offerings, but that doesn’t mean it lacks power. The true star of the show here is vocalist James O’Donnell.  He sheds the aggression of “DEATH 2” and adopts a more nuanced approach, his voice soaring with a newfound vulnerability. The lyrics themselves are an intriguing mix.  Lines like “Look alive, look alive, there’s never a better time to be mine” hint at a desperate plea for connection, while the overall message feels like a call to arms, urging the listener to seize the moment and embrace life’s possibilities.

Alive” might not be the heaviest track Banks Arcade has ever produced, but it’s undeniably powerful.

Heartstop” instantly retains the band’s signature knack for infectious hooks, but  ain’t your typical Banks Arcade anthem let me tell you, it’s a whole new vibe.  Forget the mysterious lyrics and face-melting riffs of their past stuff – this time, they’re serving up pure sass with the confidence of a rockstar giving their ex a piece of their mind. The first thing that grabs you is the swaggering rhythm section.  It’s got a definite strut to it, perfectly complemented by O’Donnell’s vocals along with the guitars are another highlight.  They’re not trying to melt your face off this time around, but they still pack a punch.

The next track is “Faded AF“. The song builds gradually.  Subtle layers of electronica are introduced, adding a touch of modern texture to the melancholic piano base.  The drums eventually creep in, a gentle heartbeat that underscores the emotional weight of the lyrics.  It’s a masterclass in building tension, creating a sense of quiet desperation as the song progresses.

Now for “Lost Cause” While the previous tracks explored themes of heartbreak and self-discovery, The song delves into a different kind of emotional territory: acceptance. Musically, “Lost Cause” avoids the dramatic swells of previous tracks.  Instead, it relies on a steady, melancholic groove. A real catchy beat that gets the foot tapping and the head moving. This is Banks Arcade at their most vulnerable, and it’s a powerful statement.

Opening with what seems like the heaviest part of the EP ” No Future” definitely blasts out your speakers. The music, while undeniably heavy, is also strangely exhilarating.  The driving drums and pulsating bass mixed with O’Donnell’s  screaming vocals like a release of pent-up frustration that feels oddly empowering  works a treat on this track and I thoroughly enjoyed the message it portrayed.

Closing out the 6 song EP with “Self Help“. The song opens with a haunting atmosphere.  A lone, distorted guitar line sets the stage, creating a sense of unease.  O’Donnell’s vocals enter, imbued with a raw vulnerability as he questions his purpose and grapples with self-doubt. The song acknowledges the struggle for self-discovery, but ultimately, it’s a message of empowerment. While it might lack the raw aggression of their earlier work, “Self Help” showcases Banks Arcade’s evolution as artists. Their willingness to explore vulnerability and experiment a new sound pays off.

Overall this EP is going to be a massive hit with existing fans and I truly believe this will bring in a bucket load of new ones for the band. A really promising future for Banks Arcade ahead.