Growing from the ambitious realm of his first LP Soil, an album that detailed heartache and recovery with equal gravity, serpentwithfeet‘s Deacon finds him examining moments of his thirties with a genuine reverie and calm. Purposefully built as an exploration of love and queerness, the album features a heavy focus on aesthetics that are hazy and light, guided by serpent’s stretching, swaggering, elastic voice. It’s at once a departure from his previous neo-soul sound, and a revelation of sincerity as a theme in itself.
None of this happens without purpose. It’s immediate from the first track, “Hyacinth” that something significant is happening for serpentwithfeet. When serpent sings “a man that was once/a hyacinth,” it can be and mean so many things. Possibly even a reference to T.S Eliot, evoking a similar passage in “The Wasteland,”
““They called me the hyacinth girl.”—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.”
Our subject this time however is a man, instead of a woman reborn as something else, someone else to love and cherish. Regardless it’s a beautiful sentiment, with serpent finalizing the idea of cosmic rebirth with the lines: “Don’t tell me the universe ain’t listening/I went to bed single now I’m kissing/A man that was once a hyacinth.”
Throughout the album, serpentwithfeet meditates on similar wavelengths, debuting soundscapes that emphasize his past experience with gospel and baroque pop. Ethereal bass eclipses only small portions of the album, while imprints of intense choruses such as on “Same Size Shoe” form incredible compositions that are revisited throughout the work, like an ever-evolving puzzle that references itself continuously. It’s easy to see the album as one long song, broken up merely by changes in tempo or keys.
Choral harmonies shimmer throughout while serpent, on “Malik,” takes some time lyrically to promote body positivity. Later he fixates on breathy falsetto harmonies backed by languishing guitar loops on “Amir.” He again focuses on developing this dynamic and sonic complexity on “Heart Storm” with an immense pre-chorus that twinkles with a sheening synth that transitions into the chorus seamlessly.
Throughout there’s very little that could be mistaken as grain or grit. It exists almost as if it was in a dreamlike state, coping with the horrors of the realities around us by instead providing an oasis, a compelling vision of love, unfettered and direct. This same love, both platonic and otherwise is explored in “Fellowship” serpent’s pure declaration of the state of love as well as age in heart warming fashion; “Maybe it’s the blessing of my 30s/I’m spending less time worrying/And more time recounting the love“. The rest of the track remains a love letter to serpent’s friends, their camaraderie, and something that we all share or yearn for.
With lyricism that comes from the heart, unabashed in a cradle of identity and vitality, Deacon is neither a progression or regression of serpent’s elemental entry into the world of music. It is instead an extension of a singular concept explored to its utmost limits. Through arrangements and melodies that fall slowly and quietly giving only temporary pauses for bombast, serpent proves that there is still a respite to be had in embracing love.
Label: Secretly Canadian