On 2019’s Power, Seratones made their genre agnosticism arguably their defining musical trait. That is to say, there’s been a solid foundation there since the beginning, but that album felt as though they really began exploring the flexibility offered by blending garage-rock and punk with prominent dashes of blues and soul. Having A.J. Haynes as a commanding, honey-lunged presence front and centre is what would prove the greatest catalyst for such expansion going forward, especially when Love & Algorhythms is borderline a clean slate for Seratones creatively. This time, the focus on soul is more explicit, with most of what was rock-leaning being overtaken by tones more familiar to funk, disco and an overall more synthetic palette. As such, it can kind of fall into the shadow of its predecessors, less immediate and more aware of open space that Seratones give themselves. It’s a sharp shift, but Seratones find a way to click regardless with how melodically satisfying and potent they continue to be, regardless of style. The likes of Two Of A Kind or the title track sit firmly among the best examples of this overhaul, where the glimmering keys and slinky basslines carry a more subdued performance from Haynes, something given an even brighter spotlight on the minimalist pulse of Dark Matter. There’s enough to that and how it’s carried out to dispel any notions of a ‘sellout’ album; Seratones are creating completely on their own terms, crystallised by the added texture and tempos on more blues-leaning cuts like Pleasure and Get Free.
That being said, Love & Algorhythms doesn’t always hit upon the same tightness of Seratones at their very best. Particularly at the end with Power Of Your Light and High, the consequences of such a radical shift in direction haven’t been completely avoided or hidden with how uneven the momentum can be. Haynes really does serve as the best retainer from that perspective, given that she’s always excellent to keep the mean quality up. It can’t really be overstated how good that is to have for this album specifically, when Seratones’ usual political steadfastness is fed through a mantra of ‘revolution through joy’, something that can potentially come unglued very easily in the wrong hands. But Seratones—and especially Haynes herself—know what they’re doing, and there’ll often be a striking, ear-catching moment to jut through an accessible exterior, like the spoken interlude Evidence or the inspired flip of Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name on Get Free. It reinforces how defiant Seratones are as band, reshaping themselves into distinctive new forms while leaving the central ethos intact. That isn’t even touching on how catchy these songs can be, mostly in the burrowing earworm sense that makes the most of their funk and pop leanings. It’s those same features that can make Love & Algorhythms possibly Seratones’ most difficult album to swallow, particularly compared to an immediate predecessor that feels worlds away in execution, but there’s also a lot from it to be gained and enjoyed. It’s new and fresh, and assimilates into its new skin with few major hiccups; it’s a case where near everything comes together nicely and naturally, while still being a headlong dive that’s enough to place Seratones on a higher pedestal on its own.
For fans of: Alabama Shakes, Janelle Monáe, Bartees Strange
‘Love & Algorhythms’ by Seratones is released on 27th May on New West Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall