In between the release of this album and the last, serpentwithfeet seems to have fallen in love. soil, released in 2018, was about impossible yearning, a borderline violent devotion. DEACON is about the contentedness that comes when you’re a little older, a little wiser, and you realize love isn’t about dramatic gestures and codependency and all-consuming emotion, but instead about quiet things: bringing someone coffee in bed; knowing their favorite cereal. The lyrics and production style have become simpler; sweeter; stripped down.

The influence of pop songwriting is clear. DEACON represents a deliberate choice to move from poetry to prose. soil was ripe with intricate, beautiful constructions of language (“because of him lesser men have set their father’s home ablaze / and as the smoke billowed all those men became / the boys they never got to be”), but on this album, serpentwithfeet chooses to speak more plainly. Take, for example, “Derrick’s Beard”, in which the single refrain of the song is: ”Come over here / missing your beard.” In Hyacinth, he sings: “I went to bed single now I’m kissing / A man that was once a hyacinth.”

The album is also only 30 minutes long, which is an excellent choice. I think a lot of artists (@lana del rey lmao) want to make their songs long so they can say, Hey, I made a 9 minute song, I’m an artist. But unless you’ve really got 9 minutes of operatic content, it’s usually better to keep it short and sweet.

A speed runthrough of the tracks: My favorite song on the album was probably Derrick’s Beard. It’s absurdly simple, absurdly sweet. The spoken intro ‘I know you gotta be up early / And baby I don’t want to sound needy’ was jarring on the initial listen, but refreshing. And it just makes me feel like lying down on the floor and staring at the ceiling and dreaming about falling in love. Dawn is a bright and lovely interlude, that really does sound like Dawn breaking. Wood Boy is probably the track that’s most like his previous work: with Bane-esque breathing sounds forming the beat, explosion noises, the contrast between the pitched down beat and his falsetto. NAO’s vocals steal the spotlight in Heartstorm; it makes you really want to listen to more of her music. Sailor’s Superstition has a club-type beat, which is not my personal style. Same Size Shoe is so adorable and joyous, and you have to watch the music video—and the main refrain, “Me and my boo wear the same size shoe” is a crazy-catchy, crazy-sweet ode to queer love.

I’m a little surprised This Hill and Psychic were left off the album and relegated to just the Apparition EP, because I thought they were gorgeous.

Not every track on this album was my vibe, to be honest. There’s a few I could do without, notably the more clearly club/pop ones where the melody didn’t click (Amir, Malik, Sailor’s Superstition). I think now that we’ve all heard more of serpentwithfeet’s music and his style has started to trend towards a pop sensibility rather than outright experimentation, listening to his music is no longer the Holy-Shit-Mind-Blown moment that listening to his debut EP, blisters, or album, soil was. But it’s still enormously enjoyable to listen to—the happiness he’s found bleeds onto every track and you can’t help but feel happy, too.

I also think what serpentwithfeet is doing in terms of storytelling and narrative is culturally essential, but there are people much better qualified to dissect that than me; namely, the man himself. Read Eric Ford’s interview with serpentwithfeet on his music video for Same Size Shoe.