Serene is an apt description for the brand of rock this spiritually attuned band creates; amid clanging guitar riffs and pounding drums, there still remains a meditative, almost ethereal quality to the music. That's in part because lead singer/chief songwriter Ryan Beatty's echo-like vocals are so muted, they often appear to be background to the music. Another factor is the use of repetitive melody lines, which tie this collection of 13 songs together. More a collective of musicians than a band (at least on this recording), Serene are abetted by well-known figures on the indie Christian rock scene, including Jesse Sprinkle, Joel Votaw, Brian Moore, Matt Green, and Sydney Rentz. That indie spirit is evident in both the unconventional music and the lyrics, which dig deeper and touch on broader topics than most major-label Christian outifts. No doubt Serene would chafe at the Christian rock label anyway; after all, this is a band that mixes songs about love affairs and walks on the beach with tunes about the search for spiritual truth. To find a Christian band that doesn't wear its religiosity on its sleeve is rare indeed.
- Release Date:
- Arena Rock
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When I initially listened to this cd, I thought to myself, "Oh, nice. Mellow. Simple. OK." Umm, yeah, it may seem nice & mellow and simple and OK on the first listen, but luckily I realized that I needed to give it another listen, and another, and another, and the more I played it, the more I kept discovering, like peeling layers and layers off an onion except this was a lot sweeter to the senses than an onion would be. It¿s the paradox of the multi-layered and multi-faceted simplicity. I think the band's name threw me off, and I initially listened for that peaceful easy feeling, and that's definitely on the album, so that's what I picked up at first. But I wasn't satisfied with that. So I paid closer attention in subsequent listens, and whaddaya know, these guys play rock 'n' roll! Still really beautiful, yes, but they do rock out. Thank goodness, because rock `n¿ roll is important to me. The way I see it, Serene¿s got 3 things going for them. #1, the instrumentation is just lovely. Let¿s face it. There are a lot of instrumentals on this album. On average, there¿s a minute & a half instrumental intro to each song. That¿s pretty long for a 4-minute song. So you gotta think that the artist meant for the nonverbal parts to mean something. It¿s almost like the narrator is having a hard time expressing himself through words and it¿s only through meditating on his feelings and experiences musically that he is able to finally find the right words to convey his message halfway through the song. The musical interludes seem to convert heartfelt soundscapes into almost visual landscapes. Kind of reminds me of the Six Parts Seven, an awesome instrumental band out of Ohio. Also, none of the melodies are all that pop-hooky, except maybe the last two acoustic tracks. The lack of ¿hook¿ actually makes the songs more genuine, one-of-a-kind and raw, in my opinion. Or maybe they¿re full of pop hooks and I wouldn¿t know a hook if it bit me on the nose. #2, the 3 voices heard on this album are each unique (2 male, one female), from frontman Ryan Beatty's hauntingly idealistic resonance to Sydney¿s ethereal clear melody to Jesse¿s weathered and desperate tone. Beatty who does the majority of the vocals is more versatile the more you listen to him. He can be straightforwardly soft and gentle, like on the first track¿s (a fallen angel) short (very short) vocal part, or intense and almost raucous like on beggars of the sea, or piningly sweet like on the last track (autumn). He may not be perfect technically as a vocalist, but this album is not so much about technical prowess as it is about conveying an impressionistic musical tapestry, which I think is done very competently. #3, the surreal minimalist tendencies of their lyrics set Serene¿s songs apart from your average indie rock/pop songs. However, unlike, say, My Bloody Valentine, where knowing exactly what words are being sung may not be so important, as few as the words may be that comprise many of Serene¿s songs, it¿s clear that the words that do make up the skeletal lyrics carry a lot of weight. If the words weren¿t that important, the band probably wouldn¿t have gone through the trouble of including them in the liner notes. Yeah, you gotta read the lyrics to understand what¿s being sung sometimes, but that forces you to commit the cerebral act of reading, which goes along nicely with what seems to me was some pretty cerebral songwriting. I¿m not saying the lyrics aren¿t heartfelt¿they are; they¿re obviously autobiographical for the most part. I¿m just saying that the songwriter wrote intelligently. There¿s nothing wrong with using your brain as well as your heart in writing songs; you can still be 100% bona fide confessional. The overall effect of this type of writing is that the songs can either flash a series of images one after the other in the mind of the listener or paint one big picture over the course of the entire song. all of it though tells the simple story of boy meets