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Albums of the Year 2019: Seratones - Power | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year 2019: Seratones - Power

Albums of the Year 2019: Seratones - Power

Heart, energy and some cracking good tunes from a new Louisiana band

Timeless 20th-century pop music gets a new lease of life

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had every intention of making Songs Of Our Native Daughters featuring Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell and Amythyst Kiah my Album of the year. It’s a solid work of great beauty, elegance and substance. But you can read my thoughts on it elsewhere on The Arts Desk.

And the album is number eight in Rolling Stone’s Top 40 of the year, as well as being Iggy Pop’s personal album of the year, so more waffle on it from me is neither here nor there. Whereas the still relatively unknown Louisiana pop group Seratones may still be new enough to this game to get a buzz from being praised to the sky on some Brit arts website.

Pop group?” You sceptically say. Well, it suits them better than ‘rock group’ or ‘soul band’ or whatever, because they have a take on everything from 1950s epic girl-group ballads, to garage-band rock and early hip-hop. In fact I stumbled across them when methodically going through a sidebar selection of video clips YouTube had thrown up for me with the title ‘Alternative R&B’. It turned out that ‘Alternative R&B’ meant only-slightly-different-from-generic R&B, and I was about to give up my quest for something new and exciting, just as Seratones restored my faith with the video for the title track of this, their second album.

It’s a long time since I’ve heard a new band with such charm and pizzazz, as well as faith in the idea that a great chorus might save Western civilisation. Some time later, after listening to half a dozen more tracks of equal swagger and melodic clout, I googled them only to discover they were playing live in London the following night. Not being one to ignore this kind of mind-blowing serendipity, I went along. And needless to say, their live show – part X-Ray Spex, part Janelle Monae – completely my conversion.

Their vocalist AJ Haynes has the best new pop voice I’ve heard in years. Yes, there’s that word again, ‘pop’. But let’s be clear what we’re talking about: Debbie Harry, Ronnie Spector, Dusty Springfield, the Chantels kind of pop. On their 2016 more punk rock orientated debut Get Gone and this – its more sophisticated, wider screen sequel Power – Haynes has effortlessly embraced everything from a high-energy 21st-century take on Motown with the title track, to the fragile Bacharachian beauty of the closing ballad “Crossfire”.

The album isn’t perfect – the vocals are sometimes too low in the mix and too swamped in reverb, and some of the arrangements are a little staid. But in the end it’s about the songs and the voice. And there are at least four great tunes here, destined to take their place in my memory alongside every other classic I’ve ever been moved by, or danced to. If you do nothing else, check out the video for “Power” – if it doesn’t get your foot tapping and your mouth smiling, then you’re still recovering from too much Christmas pud.

Two More Essential Albums from 2019

Sun Kil Moon - I Also Want to Die in New Orleans
KOKOKO! - Fongola

Gig of the Year

Leyla McCalla at Kings Place

Track of the Year
Seratones - Power

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