Is this easy to explain? Yes and no. Yes, because I think the album to contain extremely beautiful and soothing music that I find myself to love to submerge in. No, because several songs, if I listen to them with an impartial ear, are extremely simple affairs that have been adorned with some nice sounds, while over them Berninger croons away in a relatively monotone way. So there you are and I find the emotions to win with one finger in the nose.
It is exactly the relaxed atmosphere that makes Serpentine Prison such an attractive album to listen to. Underneath Matt Berninger's voice a spaciousness is created that makes every note that is played and every sound made extremely noticeable. They all stand out. In fact the emptiness around and between the instruments is almost an extra instrument. In a sense the beautiful artwork is symbolic for the music. Listening to the album, I see an image in my head of an empty canvas with here and there a note, a sound painted in another solitary spot, in between blank canvas only. It is impossible to see music, but with a song like 'Serpentine Prison' I almost can. The image it presents to me is that strong.
Let me point to 'One More Second' as another example. An acoustic guitar, light percussion, a soft bass, a second acoustic guitar, a sparse piano note here and there. And then Booker T.'s organ comes in, playing only a few notes, ever so softly and the song lights up the grey autumn day. It can be this simple, to adorn very life itself. As that is what Serpentine Prison does, light up my day, present me with a little piece of musical heaven. The overall mood of the album may be completely subdued, at times even modest, from there sparks fly, rays of light shoot off. The world is no longer there for a short while.
The final point what really connects with me, is that not a single musician is doing anything extra to steal the show. Not a single note more is played than strictly necessary. That way even a few slaps on a bongo can have prominence and be on the same level as all the other instruments. Even Matt Berninger's voice blends in despite being on top. It all becomes a work of art, like the two paintings on the gatefold sleeve. If there is an album you can buy for the artwork, it's Serpentine Prison. And the music comes with it too. What a deal!
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