‘Deacon’ – the sophomore album of ‘Serpentwithfeet’ – is a testament to the power of ‘less is more’; clocking in at just under 30 minutes, with each track underpinned by minimalist production and instrumentation. At a time of great darkness in the world, ‘Deacon’ – which centres around Serpentwithfeet’s (real name: Josiah Wise) relationship with his same sex partner – is a much needed dose of bliss. The album avoids the pitfalls that other albums about head-over-heels love suffer (think Shawn Mendes’s ‘Wonder’ or Nick Jonas’s ‘Spaceman’). When other artists sing about being in love, it can sound as though they’re simply bragging or just mind-numbingly droning on, but Wise manages to take listeners along the same journey he is on. The lyrics on the album are layered, metaphorical and evoke rich imagery, like on ‘Hyacinth’ (“those who sleep with a flower by their head / Wake up with a lover in their bed”).
A central reason ‘Deacon’ succeeds is because it lyrics about love are matched with equally magical, dreamy instrumentation and production; adding to the album’s sense of surrealism. ‘Sailor’s Superstition’, with it’s infectious chorus that begs for repeat listens, is a perfect example of this, as is the otherworldly ‘Heart Storm’ featuring NAO.
While this description of the album can make it sound one-dimensional, look closer and you’ll find a hidden diversity of themes, sounds and motifs. Across it’s 29 minutes, the album moves from the metaphor-heavy ‘Hyacinth’ to the longing ‘Amir’, to the experimental and distorted ‘Heart Storm’, all the way to the charming, sexually explicit ‘Wood Boy’; where Wise expresses his desire for his boyfriend to be on “top” of him and “inside” him – even wanting his partner to “rearrange” him.
Meanwhile, Wise saves two of the finest tracks for the end of the LP. The penultimate ‘Old & Fine’ is perhaps the most tender song on the records, as Wise confesses “I grow ten feet taller when you’re near sweetie” and repeats “I want to get old & fine with you”. Meanwhile, the final track ‘Fellowship’ offers a surprising, but welcome, change of pace; with the track being not about romantic love, but friendship. The track is filled with wisdom and a sense of contentment (“Maybe it’s the blessing of my thirties / I’m spending less time worrying and more time recounting the love”). While many of the most popular songs of the last year have been about partying, clubbing and discos, ‘Fellowship’ conjures up the imagery of sitting around a table with a few close friends, drinking Prosecco, telling jokes and playing games. It’s an image that feels a lot more accessible, and realistic, during quarantine times and, mirrors the overall mood of the album; as Rolling Stone commented “‘Deacon’ is less “clubby,” and more like dancing in your living room with a glass of wine after dinner.”
Best Track(s): Sailor’s Superstition, Hyacinth, Fellowship
Worst Track(s): Amir