Article by Jeff Haight
Singer-songwriter Mark Saunders, recording under the moniker Serac, has released his debut album 'Songs for the Broken Hearted' which features multi-instrumentalist Jon Clayton as well as Jen Macro providing background vocals. This record contains twelve tracks with some deceptively simplistic songwriting and arrangements that upon further listening reveal much more beneath the surface of these beautiful yet somber songs. 'Oh Yujan' starts the record off with an excellent wash of acoustic and electric guitar chords that are carried along nicely by a memorable punchy bassline. Fans of Nick Drake and Sebadoh will immediately feel at home with Mark's vocals on these songs, a highlight of the record when matched with the beautiful harmonies of Jen Macro. You can really hear the melancholy, almost mournful reflective tone in his delivery and it really adds to the atmosphere of the tracks. 'Didn't Mean to Say Those Words' follows the opener and showcases the arranging strengths of this album with some fantastic verb-soaked guitar work. The dreamy riffs are perfectly placed, tastefully played and really give this track a great unique vibe.
One of my favorite tracks 'Time Will Tell' contains a beautifully played cello, complete with pizzicato plucks on the verse. This track has such an outstanding chorus and Mark's vocals are allowed to really shine with the more sparse arrangement. Another highlight follows directly with the appropriately darker 'Lust is a Double Edged Sword' that is pushed along by some inspired cello arrangements and excellent dual ambient wah-wah inflicted guitar leads. The lyrical ability shines on this track as well, containing some of his most memorable lines as the band shows its ability to create several varied moods within the acid-folk framework. The percussion on this track is absolutely perfect, giving the track an understated yet energetic backing for the cello and guitars to soar in. 'Close My Eyes' offers a more stripped-down version of Serac, as Mark sings the tale of a lost lover he still holds close in memory accompanied by a lonely strummed acoustic guitar. This is one of the mellowest tracks on the album, but is excellently placed in the sequencing of the record.
The standout track 'The Moon and Star' opens with breathtakingly gorgeous vocal harmonies from Jen Macro. Her voice blends perfectly with Mark's to compliment this beautiful and emotional song. The opening lines of the lyrics paint wonderful imagery and immediately pull the listener along for a ride under the night sky. You may end up listening to this song repeatedly a few times before proceeding with the rest of the record. The album becomes more energetic with the harder-edged 'Lost' complete with a wall of guitar distortion and dissonant phased chords. This was a welcome surprise of energy in the pacing of the record and is an extremely catchy song. The guitar work after the breakdown is absolutely fantastic and I couldn't help but think of My Bloody Valentine. Another track that absolutely demands some repeated listens. The band is adept at weaving familiar songwriting approaches into their unique arrangements, but never adhere to those limitations, instead they bring fresh energy to these ideas and make them all their own. A perfect example of that is the beautiful closing track, 'Break Your Heart', that begins like a downtempo Nick Drake classic but takes off to another level as more instruments are layered into a beautiful uplifting guitar-laden outro. This record will soothe a broken heart with its emotional tone and this track is the perfect choice to place at the end. It leaves the listener with a reassuring sentiment and with the feeling of wanting to go back to revisit some of the more memorable melodies of the record. This is a strong debut from Serac and several of the tracks hint at more exciting musical possibilities on the horizon for this burgeoning band to explore. I am definitely looking forward to hearing what comes next.
Buy: 'Songs for the Broken Hearted'
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