Album Review: Seryn – Shadow Shows
We’ve covered Seryn in the past and love their sound overall. When their latest album arrived in my inbox I got really excited. I listened to it and soaked in the harmonies over and over. Now I’d like to tell you why this is an underrated album and band that you should have coursing through your ears RIGHT NOW. Welcome to the wonderful, atmospheric, ethereal world of Seryn…
Shadow Shows begins with an instrumental track blending what sounds like synths and electric guitar. It all works together to introduce a wonderfully artful indie rock album. The second track “Kilimanjaro” gives us exactly what we come for when we put on Seryn. It’s a healthy dose of vocal harmonies and great guitars. If you listen carefully you’ll hear that not-too-folky banjo plucking in the background. The sound is comfortable and enticing, making for a great lead into the rest of the album.
The rock sensibility of the album comes through on several songs. “The Fire” has a powerful pop folk infusion, showing Seryn’s versatility. The vocal blending on this particular track is incredible. What makes the song intriguing is its reassurance, “it’s okay, it’s alright, you’re not alone.” Although it doesn’t have an explicit spiritual expression in it, there’s a definite sense of the Divine coming through in the lyrics. That’s why you’re not alone, it seems. What a great, reassuring song, for people to hear on a good or bad day. It’s uplifting in the purest sense.
“Headache” slows things down a bit, but not in a bad way. There’s a full bass sound that gives the track the requisite bottom to really “pop” with the high range lead vocal. In some ways this one reminds me of St. Paul de Vence’s new folk sound. “All our lives we serve ourselves. It’s the common curse of might-as-well.” Now there’s a convicting phrase! It advances an argument made by the song that death is coming no matter what and our bodies are breaking apart. We just have to cope with life and “the hand we’re dealt.” It has an inherent feeling of being in this “together… cause we’re still here, not in the ground.” Rarely would I call a track a conversation starter, but this is one for sure.
“Paths” gives us the title of the album in the lyric, “We’ve grown accustomed to the stones, But life is more than shadow shows.” It seems to be focusing on the horrifying reality we all experience in the charade of culture. Rather, we need to move beyond the “shadow shows” of deception and really, although they don’t say it directly they seem to imply, love and care for one another. There’s a great musical element of rapid (double time?) percussion and a fastly-picked banjo. When juxtaposed with the slower, well-delivered harmonies, it comes across as an achievement of a song. In fact, it’s the kind of orchestral greatness combined with lyrical brilliance that I’m more inclined to call a “piece” than just a song. It’s exceptional.
Although there aren’t really any “skip” tracks on the album, I am going to jump ahead to the final two tracks. “Ivory Black” is really one of the most atmospheric tracks on the album. It’s a careful, introspective look at personal motives. It hinges on questions of self doubt and possibly depression that many listeners will connect with. But deep inside all is this message, “cold, but I’m not dead. Carrying all these fears on wings of lead.” Amen to that.
The closing track “Kaleidoscope,” begins with some great gang vocal “ohs” that give a tribal sense. The song’s use of the second person, referring to “we” draws the listener right into the relationship inherent in the song. “We’re still waiting, your voice still shaking…” It’s about living an inspired life. “With what we’ve got we’re either living or we’re not. So let’s not waste it.” Well there’s a great parting lyric to inspire you to live better! It’s the kind of song on that kind of album; this isn’t head-hanging melancholy or toe-tapping joy. It’s an emotionally-charged, cerebral art that encourages listeners to think critically about their lives. It’s not for the feint of heart, that’s for sure.
Fans of atmospheric indie rock will love this album. Folks who enjoy music that engages mind as well as heart will find much to enjoy here as well. Seryn have that unique combination of musical chops to make a solid sonic album while also having the lyrical savvy to write complicated yet accessible words. Their album goes down smooth as something in the background, but it can also be something you sit and think hard about with dear friends. In fact, I’d support both ways of experiencing this art.