Banks — ‘3’

THE GOOD: California singer/songwriter Jillian Rose Banks comes back with her third.

THE BAD: No bold leaps forward. Banks sticks to the formula.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Is that bad though? “3” isn’t the most exciting record you’ll hear this year. However, it IS a cool electronic underground R&B/pop album brimming with sneaky rhythms, thick basslines, melodic and pulsating synths, distortion in all the right places and some soaring vocal performances.

Banks co-writes and produces with a bevy of collaborators, including Hudson Mohawke and Paul Epworth, creating a stirring, urban, after-dark collection that brings love, hope, desire and a bit of heartbreak to any setting you choose.

Highlights include the throbbing “Stroke,” driven and enticing “Gimme” and the big bounce underneath “Alaska.” But there aren’t any outright duds here. “3” also flows extremely well from track to track. A slick, popping ebb and flow gives us both a potent workout and enough time to catch our breaths. Banks further proves she’s more than a flavor-of-the-month singles artist.

BUY IT?: Sure.


Frankie Cosmos — ‘Close It Quietly’

THE GOOD: Indie singer/songwriter Greta Kline (stage name Frankie Cosmos) offers up her fourth.

THE BAD: Nope.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Releasing records since she was about 19, Kline has matured before our very ears.

She’s always treated songs as little confessionals, giving us tiny peeks at both her private life and public persona. “Close It Quietly” finds the singer at the very epicenter of her 20s, the age where you still want to have fun but realize you must move toward something, anything.

Kline has accepted that life is messy, and she really doesn’t care HOW messy it gets. Her softly spoken yet commanding vocal presence tells of dreams, heartbreaks, aspirations, shortcomings and daily routines over tumbling indie backdrops big on guitars and drums.

At times, the whole affair seems like a throwback to classic That Dog or Blake Babies. And yet, Kline is living for today and what may be on tap for tomorrow. Good or bad, she’ll tell us all about it on the next one.

BUY IT?: Surely.


Bat for Lashes — ‘Lost Girls’

THE GOOD: British singer/songwriter Natasha Khan (stage name Bat for Lashes) embraces fantasy and the ’80s on her fifth.

THE BAD: Nope.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Three years ago, Khan told an extended tragic love story throughout her fourth album, “The Bride.” Now, she’s spinning vignettes rooted in sci-fi and otherworldly images, all set to a soundtrack that recalls the best of ’80s post-punk, Goth and synth pop. Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper get spliced together, and the end results are divine.

It could be the cinematic and sweeping “The Hunger,” the dance trash carrying “Feel for You,” sleek and sexy instrumental “Vampires” or the grand melancholy of “Peach Sky.” Every moment engulfs us, with Khan possessing a definite flair for the dramatic. And since these stories are somewhat less specific than the one from “The Bride,” the album is instantly more relatable. We can bring our own characters and story arcs to the table. Khan simply provides the lushest of backdrops.

BUY IT?: Oh yes.