When deciding our album of the summer, it would have been easy to throw a nod to Pusha T’s “Daytona,” the Kid Cudi and Kanye West seven-track collaborative “Kids See Ghosts,” or the final installment of The Carters’ trilogy in “Everything is Love.” At this point, though, they’ve been in the press for ages.
Instead, we’ve chosen to showcase what we believe to be the most underrated album of the summer: serpentwithfeet’s “soil.” Serpentwithfeet, born Josiah Wise, began his music career as a Baltimore choirboy––a past life which manifests itself in every corner of his 11-track, avant-garde R&B debut. The most prominent element of each song is undoubtedly Wise’s voice, which simultaneously carries trembling vibrato and clear simplicity. It careens off manipulated harmonies of itself in the standout “mourning song,” lurches along with the Clams-Casino-produced “seedless,” and pours over simple piano in the closing ballad “bless ur heart.” Regardless of the context, Wise’s vocals are a constant joy to listen to and lend immediate complexity to any track.
At its heart, “soil” is an album about love––desire, intimacy, and loss––and touches upon this central theme as only an R&B-gospel-pop album could. Lyrics like “Please return / I’ll comfort all of you / I won’t suffocate you anymore, I’ll be just right for you” off of “seedless” are chilling in how explicitly they express Wise’s deep fixation for his lover, continuing themes of aggressive longing seen earlier on the homoerotic “cherubim.”
The main place where “soil” falls short is almost a fault of the cohesive thematic and tonic feel: while Wise’s voice can carry attention for longer than most, eventually the strangeness wears off and the minimalist production blends song into song — especially towards the end of the album. Some might find the repetition purposeful and hypnotic, but for us it just lends an unnecessary air of forgetability into an otherwise beautiful, perplexing album.
Standout tracks: messy, mourning song, cherubim, seedless, bless ur heart.
Honorable album mentions: “Taboo” by Denzel Curry, “Be the Cowboy” by Mitski, “OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES” by SOPHIE