With the entire balancing act around fresh sounds and accessible writing, it’s amazing what new ideas can come out of it. For the boundary-pushing record from Serpentwithfeet, an unusual instrument set creates a framework for truly powerful pop. This said, the writing will really divide listeners in its rule-breaking and expectation subverting moments.
A demented harmony opens the record on “Whisper” as woodwinds cut through with an ominous crawl and energy to them. While it seems like it might be just a mood-piece, the heavy chorus notes drop in to take the harmonies into an epic barrage of emotion and melody. “Messy” moves the instrumentation into a strange industrial ebb and flow where endless questions are hurled at the listener. Though it’s a much more abrasive sound, there’s such a wondrous mix of hooks that by the time the strong bass line comes in you’ll be hooked.
Serpentwithfeet takes gospel and doo-wop through an aggressive modern art-pop visage on “Wrong Tree” as he leans into some cliché tones to make something new of them. All things considered however, the track may still prove more divisive as it tries to straddle pop and deconstructive writing. Unusual sound-work and worrisome lyrics make “Fragrant” one of the creepiest listens of the record, but one that is admittedly hard to forget. The intimate and up-close performances keep you just as entranced as scared throughout the track.
Despite all the strong hooks and foreboding energy surround “Mourning Song” it’s hard not to laugh as a falsetto cry says “My voice is deep.” With this aside however the song builds into an emotional climax as every vocal joining the track makes it more intense and hypnotizing to listen to. Through a dark electronica and aggressive vocal samples, “Cherubim” mixes classical undertones and a tribal energy to make a powerful personal story. While its massive swirl of moving parts can be intense at first, the sheer scale of it makes it that much more great later on.
Though “Seedless” starts off a little samey for the record, there’s a weird hip-hop tone as its beats start to become louder and deeper. The paranoia of the sound slowly creeps into the lyrics as well as Serpentwithfeet can’t even have sex without reading about it first anymore. Out of anything on this record, “Invoice” is truly one of the few mixed bags in its accessible sound. Though Serpentwithfeet manages to put his stamp on it, it will serve better as an introduction to him, rather than a middle album cut.
With eccentric grandeur, “Waft” starts warping its electronics for a dynamic ambient nightmare. This said it never has a central hook to really anchor the track beyond a trippy interlude. “Slow Syrup” suffers from the same issue, even as its frightful strings and hooks cascade around the vocals. By the end even if you’re engaged, it’s hard to feel like it pulls you back again. Around piano hooks, “Bless Ur Heart” builds a shockingly magical swath of melodies that elevate its simple chords. Though it may seem straightforward at times, every time it falls into these dynamic chords it gains a majesty like nothing else.
Words by Owen Maxwell