Post Frank Ocean the R & B dude turned on a dime. We went from the shirtless heterosexual nymphomaniac to the complicated poetic scribe in flowing white. It was a lot to digest. Serpentwithfeet was not created by Frank Oceans success but the lane he was in naturally opened up and the attention has been more because the audience has a model for how to digest this music. That being said, his well respected 2018 album Soil didn’t connect with me. Deacon is the first full project where I am totally engrossed in the world he creates. The Wikipedia lists him as producer or co-producer of all but one song (Sailors’ Superstition) so the sonics are absolutely consistent while showing growth from one song to another. It’s an album unafraid to engage in loving adoration. On the first song (Hyacinth) our lead voice gently coos “He never played football but look at how he holds me.” These songs are about love without any of the safety net imagery to keep the narrator looking cool/aloof. A full exposed heart pumping out desires.
What takes getting used to about the world of serpentwithfeet is the utter tranquility at play; in tone, pacing, and melody. Same Size Shoe is about finding the right person but could be a lullaby for a child trying to drift off to bed. We live in a world constantly trying to agitate us into a reaction. A listener, viewer, reader, consumer who is at an emotional 10 is a potential blockbuster spender. As you slide from track three(Malik) to track four(Amir) the story is unfolding breathlessly as character relationships develop “Tell me all your corny jokes, I want to hear about your folks (Amir)” but the pacing is patience. Sailors’ Superstition does mark a slight shift however. I love the first five songs but they are heavy on D’Angelo style vibe. The most interesting lyrical portraits and creative decisions take place from songs six to eleven.
Wood Boy is pure lust and desire articulated with care and detail. The first lines are “Who am I foolin’? It’s nice when your bodies near mine. I need you more than I admit sometimes. I…want…you on top of me.” It also has the albums best bridge and chorus, the hook and instrumental swell combine for one of the year’s best songs. Old & Fine is dope chimes and finger snaps and might be my favorite vocal performance by serpentwithfeet on the project. My favorite song is a battle. Derrick’s Beard is exactly why I love Deacon, it hones in on a specific part of the person and turns that into a warm loving interlude over dripping piano. It’s a world built from a single detail. Fellowship (album closer) moves up tempo and sounds optimistic. It’s the song that proves to you Deacon isn’t a break up album, isn’t an album about heartbreak. Fellowship tells you that the album is about how wonderful and unique all the characters you met are. Whether it worked out or it didn’t, even if the distance swallowed great chemistry the moments shared count and build us. The fellowship builds us. So yeah, that might be my favorite song and the song that directly plugs me back in to what I just heard.