Side Note

serpentwithfeet’s new album ‘soil’ is gonna get you in your feelings

There’s nothing understated about serpentwithfeet’s new album soil, which is driven by over-the-top spiritual emotion derived from his gospel roots. The Baltimore-raised singer and former choir boy is never far from the church, using his soaring vocals and poetic lyrics to render an operatic, stirring account of romantic love. That quality makes this 40 minute-long project feel like an absorbing feature film that’s still somehow over too soon.

Take a song like “mourning song”, where serpentwithfeet layers his voice to build the complex rise and fall in an ode to a lost part of his heart. Isolated and heard in the right mood, any song on soil is enough to take the listener down an introspective journey through the epic narratives — or what felt like epic narratives, at least — of their own past loves. In particular, I looped album opener “whisper”, which showcases serpentwithfeet’s talent for using the patient, atmospheric quality of church music to lend reverence and spectacular awe to such a universal experience. He makes lines like “I love you so much” sound urgent, desperate even, in a way that’s usually only reserved for face to face fights with a lover.

In a 2016 interview with Pitchfork, serpentwithfeet talked about how his creative preoccupation with love emerges out of a fascination with death. “What does it means to fall in love with someone that’s dead?" he recalled asking himself. “What does it mean to feel like that dead person?” In the end, he circled back to “singing and gospel” as a way of working out his ideas — an expert melding of darkness and light that comes out on soil. It’s dramatic in a way that might be off-putting for anyone looking for a light summer jams, but if you need a soundtrack to plumb the depths of your soul, serpentwithfeet has you covered.