Serenade Season by 死夢 Vanity
For any other big fans of 死夢 Vanity out there: upon seeing that they had a new album out, your first thought was probably “no way, really?” It’s been a rather lengthy period of time since we’ve seen new music out of them; their last release was 2018’s Lovely Reveries. Sure, there were occasional singles here and there but even those were substantially spread out. So to see Serenade Season— a new full-length album drop seemingly out of nowhere with no fanfare— is quite a shock. It also happens to be quite a blessing. After all, when has “new 死夢 Vanity music” ever been a bad thing?
Right out of the gate, the release offers a wonderful, familiar sound. Despite the long period of time between releases, it feels as though nothing has changed. While suggesting a musical artist hasn’t changed over the years could be seen as a bit of an insult, we don’t mean it as such. Serenade Season feels like 死夢 Vanity has simply decided to pick up where they left off. The sonic palette of the release evokes a similar feeling to their prior works, with an instantly recognizable texture to it. It does, however, reach out and expand into some new areas as the release goes along. 死夢 Vanity has always had this rather specific “clean” sound to their releases, something that many other vaporwave artists may forego. The music evokes nostalgia through its melodies, rather than the layers of dust that some releases achieve with reverb and all manner of gadgets.
Ultimately the biggest issue with the release ends up being how safe it feels. This album very much feels like 死夢 Vanity playing within the core sound that they’ve established for themselves. Light piano and synth melodies interplay with one another in a way that sounds both totally unique to them, but also like many of the other releases of theirs that you’ve heard before. The first track that feels like a departure doesn’t arrive until startlingly late in the album. Track 8 (of 12) in fact. “With You”. Up until that point, we were perfectly relaxed and enjoying everything we had been hearing, but the tracks were mostly a blur. If we were to play them back, we wouldn’t be able to identify them with any specificity beyond “that sounds like a 死夢 Vanity song,” but such was not the case when “With You” entered the picture. Using strings—guitar rather than piano here— the melody felt a little different right out of the gate. On display here is an interesting aquatic vibe that isn’t really present anywhere else on the album, and ultimately winds up feeling unlike anything we’ve heard from 死夢 Vanity previously.
It turned out this was just the first step in offering a transformative sound, as the final third of the album practically feels like an entirely different release from that of the first two-thirds. It still has that 死夢 Vanity veneer that one would expect, but the sounds feel more decidedly seasonal. This final leg of the album evokes a more distinct time of year too, stemming from its increased emphasis on guitar. The final act has a cozier sound to it, straying past that of calming lounge music and heading more in the direction of listening to the demo station at the Discovery Channel store during a holiday rush. (Is that a weirdly specific example? Sure, but that’s one of the strengths of vaporwave.) The closing track–the title track no less— evokes this feeling even more strongly than any other point on Serenade Season.
Ultimately if we were reviewing just the final act of the album as its own EP, it’d probably be one of our favorite 死夢 Vanity releases to date, but alas such is not the case. There aren’t any bad tracks to be seen on the album, but the first portions of the release feel like an artist reconciling with their own sound before moving past it into something wonderful and exciting. We hope the closing tracks influence their sound moving forward, and above all, we hope we don’t have to wait two years to get our ears on another full-length.
50 Cassettes Available from Gorgeous Lights Feb. 12th @ 12:00AM PDT