serpentwithfeet : GRIP

tom morgan
serpentwithfeet grip

This isn’t the freshest observation, but it’s wild to think how many new stratas of pop music have opened up across the last decade or so. “Pop” music was once the sole domain of, well, pop stars; major label-owned, household name musicians. The omnipresent nature of the internet and proliferation of home recording technology has demolished the gates to the kingdom, meaning that “pop” music (basically anything that’s club-friendly and accessible) is no longer the domain of a tiny minority of golden ticket winners.

Pop is now in the hands of a much wider range of artists. From bedroom pop to hyperpop to Afrobeats, there are seemingly infinite permutations on what the genre can now be. It’s within this hyper-contemporary milieu that an artist like serpentwithfeet (née Josiah Wise) has thrived. The Baltimore-born, New York City-based auteur creates music that elegantly amalgamates R&B, rap and experimental electronica and he’s featured on works by similar alt-pop acts such as Kelela, NAO and Björk.

GRIP is Wise’s third full-length, following 2021’s DEACON and 2018’s soil. His music has long overflowed with soul, melancholy and yearning. However, this time around, it’s channeled into a reflection on the significance that queer nightlife spaces have played in Wise’s life. These ten tracks are often delicate yet ooze sensuality and passion. Wise’s lyrics beautifully capture imagistic scenarios; “Deep End” portrays the aftermath of a one-night stand, “Black Air Force” reflects on feeling undesirable in the club and “Safe Word” is a deeply-erotic detailing of passionate and intimate sex.

Fittingly, for subject matter so concerned with lust and desire, Wise’s musical palette takes influences from (and expands upon) the early-noughties production royalty of Pharrell and Timbaland. Those producers’ era-defining work always possessed a swaggering, bass-heavy eroticism, which Wise deconstructs in favor of a more vulnerable, sensitive form of carnality. The structures of the tracks on GRIP are loose and exploratory, like two lovers discovering one other. “Hummin” moves at the pace of a slow, careful grind, while the gentle trap drums and pointed bass of “Spades” conjure images of packed clubs, bodies in unison and endless possibilities.

It would be an understatement to call GRIP a seductive album. This is music at its most impassioned, sensitive and (I’m sure Wise won’t mind me saying) seriously horny. It’s potent and powerful in its raw tenderness, as well as often gently mesmerizing in its casual, exploratory form. An open-hearted reminder that pop music has come a seriously long way.

Label: Secretly Canadian

Year: 2024

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serpentwithfeet grip

serpentwithfeet : Grip

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