serpentwithfeet – DEACON (2021)

Artist – serpentwithfeet (Josiah Wise)

Producers – serpentwithfeet / Batu / Brandon Juhans / Lil Silva / Sampha / Take A Daytrip / Justus West

Release Date – March 26th 2021

Label – Secretly Canadian

Second album from this Baltimore native following on from his 2018 debut Soil, it finds this experimental R&B artist has grown to the point where he is able to produce his most lush sounding and sensuous work yet.

What sets this apart from most R&B records is the production work. Listen to this on a decent set of headphones and be amazed by how crisp and full the sound is but also so delicate and intimate. There are no radio-ready bangers or anything along those lines, it’s not that kind of album; this rewards patience and repeat listens. Josiah’s voice is a thing of beauty, true, pure, powerful but never showy, you get the feeling that he can raise it to another level but keeps it as the perfect accompaniment to the relaxed, laidback vibe of the surrounding music. The most impressive aspect of the whole listening experience are the layers of vocals that appear throughout, offering backing vocals, enhancing the lead, twisting and distorting lines and adding an almost gospel like feel in places.

The gospel feel is apt as there is much religious reference throughout the record; no surprise as Josiah grew up in a religious family (his dad ran a Christian bookstore and his mum was a choir director) and he was a member of choirs throughout his school life. These influences give the record a power and purity but do not fully shape the tone and it’s core message. This album is fundamentally about love. The love for a partner, the love for family, for friends. It conveys the warmth of being around the people you hold dearest so eloquently, so realistically, it makes you think about the people in your own life and how lucky you are to have even one person who means that much to you. Josiah has created something positive and enveloping and relatable in a time when we need it most.

Completely open and honest (about sexuality, religious beliefs, feelings), it brings a freshness to the album which makes it a joy to listen to. There’s no hiding behind a mask or cryptic lyrics, this is a man who knows exactly who he is, what he wants and how happy he is and that makes this an incredibly powerful listen. My only gripe is that at under 30 minutes it’s over way too soon, the addition of a couple more tracks could have pushed this into even greater territory but as it stands this is still one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

Track Listing

1. Hyacinth – 8/10

2. Same Size Shoes – 9/10

3. Malik – 7/10

4. Amir – 7.5/10

5. Dawn – Interlude

6. Sailor’s Superstition – 8/10

7. Heart Storm (feat. NAO) – 9/10

8. Wood Boy – 8/10

9. Derrick’s Beard – Interlude

10. Old & Fine – 7.5/10

11. Fellowship – 8.5/10

Overall – 8.5/10

Spotify link –

https://open.spotify.com/album/15i2CVbvZzxiv9LfUkl2wU?si=4Es0w-OsQtSFkFEH_8MeRQ

Apple Music link –

https://music.apple.com/gb/album/deacon/1547728752

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