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serpentwithfeet Cultivates Black Joy & Love on ‘DEACON’

TSL Album Review

serpentwithfeet photo by Braylen Dion

serpentwithfeet has a voice that is entirely his own. Merging R&B, electronic, and jazz, he develops a soundscape that immerses the listener, and is truly bringing freshness to music right now. I had heard him featured on Ellie Goulding’s latest album, and immediately knew I had to hear more. I checked out his Spotify and learned that serpent had released a new full length album called DEACON. Here’s a track-by-track breakdown!

*Hyacinth: A lush and sweeping opener telling of sweet mornings with a lover and nature imagery is the most serene way possible to open the album. The dreamy R&B sound grows and unravels to paint a picture of revolutionary Black queer love, as serpent describes a journey of pain that led him to a man he loves, mirroring the Greek myth of Hyacinthus and Thamyris. This track really pulls you in, and sets a dense tone for the project as a whole in the best way possible.

*Same Size Shoe: This song has an easy beat and light lyrics over a calming piano, evoking sunlight through windows. It weaves a story of familiarity, as serpent sings “Me and my boo/Wear the same size shoe.” The little things in love make it sweet, and serpent reminds of this with a catchy melody that will be sure to stick in your head for days.

*Malik: This quick ditty is the perfect meet-cute, detailing a story of meeting a guy at a gambling club. The spare piano instrumentals and finger snapping sample leave a bit to be desired, but for an interlude I appreciated it as a transition within the tracklist.

*Amir: 90s influences are heavy on this song, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! A tribute to past legends is evident in the static filled intro, guitar and lazy drum beat. An individual spin of serpent’s own is also present, with his signature falsetto and floating production details. A standout that is sure to do well with lo-fi fans, this one was added to my “study music” playlist immediately.

*Dawn: This interlude is shorter than the previous one, but left more of an impact for me! This is truly where the gospel influences that shaped the name and atmosphere of the record shine. A choir is heard on backing vocals, and the melody is reminiscent of hymns. If anything, I think this may have been a better intro to the album after contrasting it with other tracks. A beautiful piece, but the placement takes away from it for me.

*Sailors’ Superstition: Deeper bossa nova influences show through on his song, and it’s one of my favorites melodically! Certain parts of the tracks have an underwater effect that is beautiful to listen to with headphones, and dense production with layers for days make it a sonically unique track and one of my favorites on the album hands down.

*Heart Storm (with NAO): To be honest, I feel that this song let me down a bit.  I am a huge fan of NAO, and her feature was one of the biggest expectations I had for the record. All vocals sound wonderful, and a sweeping production evocative of pouring rain and lightning storms matches the tone, but I felt like perhaps it wasn’t best suited for a collaborative effort. Shortened as an outro or interlude, I may have liked this track much more.

*Wood Boy: The tempo immediately picks up on a grimy and grungey miss-my-ex song. With relatable lyrics and spare production once more, this track doesn’t quite stand out among some others. As a chaser for Heart Storm, I feel that this song was appropriate in the same vein of serpent’s previous works: Dark production and atmospheric vocals.

*Derrick’s Beard: This interlude feels intimate, as serpent calls out to a lover who can’t be with him. Haunting layered vocals and a plinking piano create a pairing that is quiet and earnest, and offers a moment of stillness before progressing towards the last portion of the record.

*Old & Fine: I found this track a bit too similar to Amir to truly stand out to me. It has similar 90s influences that make it very relaxing, and romantic lyrics about wanting to grow old with someone are always a comfort.

*Fellowship: Ending on a vibrant and upbeat note, this track will get you up and moving. I appreciate the focus on platonic love and the community or “fellowship” those relationships bring, and not just romantic connections! Forging those bonds is a true testament to Black love and Black joy, and ties together their importance. By far one of my favorites, this song is going to be on repeat all summer for me!

If atmospheric R&B is your thing, you need to listen to this album. I found it a bit repetitive at times, but I feel that this was only because of the very distinctive stylistic cues between tracks. With an overall rating of 7/10, make sure to check out this record wherever you stream or buy your music, and @serpentwithfeet on all socials!

 

*Rating: 7/10

 

By Leah Ollie, Senior, Whitney Young High School

Instagram: @leahgraceollie

Written by Leah Ollie

Leah is a senior at Whitney Young High School, and has been working with True Star since fall of 2020. She loves fruit smoothies and cats, and dislikes kale and action movies.

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