Release Date: Jun 8, 2018
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop, Electronic, R&B, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative R&B, Left-Field Pop
Since releasing his debut EP blisters in 2016, serpentwithfeet has built up a generous aesthetic universe full of clashing textiles, warm light, and Barbie dolls. When the singer born Josiah Wise performs live, he sets up a kind of shrine onstage, draping patterned fabric over his equipment table and arranging figurines from his collection to watch him sing. His live show is an environment into which he invites the audience; he even sings his stage banter in quick, R&B-inflected runs, drawing those present deeper into his music.
serpentwithfeet's Josiah Wise originally had his sights set on a career as a classically trained opera singer, but opted for a different way forward when he didn't get into any of the graduate music programs he applied for. But despite facing rejection from the classical music world, luckily, it didn't result in an expulsion of classical sounds in his work. Cloaked in dark and immersive production, 'soil' draws from the musical genres that he was surrounded by during his youth.
There's a poetry to serpentwithfeet calling his debut album soil. Soil is the foundation of life on this planet; where seeds gestate, take root and eventually burst forth. Whilst Josiah White first appeared as serpentwithfeet in 2016 his period of gestation has been more prolonged than that. At the age of eleven White was singing with the Maryland State Boys Choir, kickstarting a love affair with vocal performance that would see him honing his voice with dreams of becoming a classically trained opera singer.
On "Mourning Song," a track from Josiah Wise's new album, soil, he sings, "It's too much work to be the monster and miss you too / Why didn't you just stay?" His vibrato quakes and stretches to breaking point in a mix of self-deprecation and despair. Even more striking is what's going on behind him: a slow march of horns and barely-there drums, pushing his song forward like a funeral procession. Since his 2016 EP, blisters, Wise has evolved from histrionic oversharer to keen songwriter with a sharp wit.
Serpentwithfeet is Josiah Wise and Josiah Wise is hard to place. He comes with a classically trained voice, a childhood spent singing in churches, and a fascination with the occult. He's also a queer black man singing about his experiences with an astonishing voice and a dark, operatic sound coiling around soil. Wise's debut comes two years after blisters, a short EP marking him out for greater things.
On the Blisters EP, Serpentwithfeet's Josiah Wise established himself as an artist with a distinctive vision as he examined faith, love, and lust from the perspective of a proudly gay African-American man. On his debut album, Soil, he expands that vision to awe-inspiring proportions. To help his music grow, Wise enlisted a team of expert sound-shapers ranging from his Tri Angle labelmates mmph, Clams Casino, and Katie Gately to Adele producer Paul Epworth (whose work on "Invoice" features some of Wise's most spellbinding vocals).