Friday, November 2, 2012

Seryn: More Than A Band of Foxes

I put This Is Where We Are on my list early this year after countless ringing endorsements from many people whose musical opinions I respect, but I just never quite got around to ordering it. It’s not that I didn’t try - I looked into Seryn on a few occasions, and there was nothing about them that I didn’t like, but, despite having some common ground with the Fleet Foxes (whose album Helplessness Blues was my top album of 2011), they didn’t quite hook me into taking the plunge. Still, advocates of the band were unrelenting. Finally, one devoted fan, who is an ex-student and fellow blogger, was insistent enough to send me a copy of This Is Where We Are through the mail. You can’t get much more fervent backing than that.

So, OK, I get it already. Especially as a relatively young, local Denton group just starting to get their work more widely recognized, Seryn is impressively mature.  When I was involved in the Denton “scene” in the late 90s, it was not much more than an appendage of the Dallas live music scene, which circled greedily around the promising success of Deep Blue Something and Tripping Daisy. More and more, I am surprised to see adventurous Denton bands getting national and international attention through current information sharing conduits.  Unlike the pop feeding frenzy that preceded it, the current Denton scene seems more artistically motivated.

As an example, there is a lot more to Seryn than is superficially apparent. At first, I thought that they neatly occupied a space right between Fleet Foxes and the Band of Horses, so I jokingly referred to them as the Band of Foxes.  In the long run, however, this easy and prematurely flippant categorization did not do justice to the way the album evolved in my experience. The tone of This is Where We Are is a bit restrained on the surface, but peeling back the layers reveals a vibrant, radiating, creative center.  Although I still think that they have a certain Appalachian tone that overlaps the Fleet Foxes’ style, there is also Peter Gabrielesque transcendentalism that lifts their work above being merely “folk.”

Also, it does not take much insight to see that Fleet Foxes is centered on the inestimable talents of Robin Pecknold. In comparison, Seryn feels more like a collaborative effort. The band's identity is generated by the synergistic interactions of the band's members rather than a singular musician’s presence. Seryn does, indeed, have some standout performers, but their individual musicality focuses purely on enriching the moments that arise in their music as it happens

Obviously, although I do get a kick out of discovering good music out of the widely available options, I find it much more gratifying to spread the word on local artists with a smaller visibility profile. Seryn has their own distinctive approach - one that I think that is artistically gratifying but also harbors the potential to be widely popular. By potential, I don't mean to imply that sometime in the future, they might release a great album. Seryn has an audience out there right now: This is Where We Are would not be out-of-place playing overhead during your daily Starbuck's constitutional, a medium that by itself probably reaches more people a day than current commercial radio.

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