(Paisley Shirt Records)
Today, we’re absolutely thrilled to premiere the debut solo album from ex-Talkies frontman R.E. Seraphin, Tiny Shapes.
For those familiar with his previous bands’ output on Burger Records (2016’s Bright / Sunny) and Yippee Ki-Yay/Electrify Me! (2018’s Kowtow), the songs and sounds found on Tiny Shapes largely come across as the logical progression of Seraphin’s “paisley pop”, playing with many of the same elements while tweaking the proportions over the years.
What might these elements be then? Well, both Seraphin and Paisley Shirt label owner Kevin Linn mention The Feelies, with Seraphin specifically noting The Good Earth-era. That album is a good point of reference, if not a perfect one: tight, subdued, chiming pop gems with the occasional hint of the slightest country twang and post-punk hangover serviceably could describe both albums, but it paints an unfinished picture.
Ironically, Tiny Shapes in fact sounds older than the 1986 album, with ever-present tape hiss and imperfections that imbue Seraphin’s tunes with a rough, intimate charm. Elsewhere, while Seraphin’s music is often under the glow of a bright jangle, these tones more so color in the spaces rather than take center stage, accentuating the crunch and fuzz like light dancing on frosted glass.
To call the vocals on Tiny Shapes muted wouldn’t be quite right, but animated would be a misnomer as well. They dangle on the precipice between the two predominate stylings of glam rock: light, fey and androgynous, and aggressive, sexually-charged and flamboyant. Often thin and sugary with a bit of cotton candy-like grit, they’re also characterized by disaffected snarls, as though channeling a very tired version of Justin Strauss who just found out firsthand that there are indeed enough girls in the world, but could still go a few more dozen rounds and doesn’t have the energy or need to be cute about it anymore.
While the songs themselves are relatively simple, they also feature some delicious textures, layering, and delay, which is where comparisons to The Jesus and Mary Chain as well as Mazzy Star come in. This elevates a lot of good pop songs to great ear candy. Case in point: lead single “Fortuna”, whose chain-delay passages act as nearly as effective of a hook as its breezy singalong chorus (“I want it all / Fortuna falls”). Seraphin’s songwriting over the year has slowly become more sprawling yet deliberate, with “Fortuna” exemplary of this gradual shift. That isn’t to say more propulsive and shambling rockers have disappeared, however: tracks such as “Exploding Head” and “Safe to Say” brim with an energy comparable to lovable ’80s misfits The Replacements. More broadly, Tiny Shapes is a record made by someone I’d bet money has a record collection dominated by the greatest overlooked pop bands of the ’70s and ’80s: Big Star, The Only Ones, The Dream Syndicate, Dramarama, Game Theory, etc. You can pull out little snippets of many of these likely conscious or subconscious influences like you’re rifling through his crates, which is a joy in and of itself for nerds who are obsessed with those eras and genres.
It’s far too easy to say too little or too much about an album like Tiny Shapes, so I’ll just say I love it. There’s a pure adoration for music and musical history that shines through with each note. That passion is infectious, and this infection will be staying in rotation for a very long time.
You can stream Tiny Shapes in its entirety below:
Music video for “Fortuna”:
Favorite tracks: “Exploding Head”, “Fortuna”, “Streetlight”
R.E. Seraphin’s ‘Tiny Shapes’ releases tomorrow, March 13, and is available to pre-order digital and cassette through Paisley Shirt Records here. Be sure to follow Seraphin on Instagram to keep up with his work.