Under Review


Serfs of Today (Self-Released)

by James Olson


The DIY aesthetic encourages, if not champions, a special level of intimacy between a musician and their listener. The wall of separation between the artist and their audience is all but shattered on records which communicate universal emotion with poignancy. Jons’ second album, Serfs of Today, almost achieves this feat, faltering only when the otherwise strong songwriting shows inconsistencies.

Advertised as a home recording on a pair of Tascam 488 8-track tape machines, Serfs of Today unveils large scale angst on a small scale stage. The Victoria band’s blend of garage rock, psych, surf, and even folk is coloured in varying shades of  melancholia. Jons don’t sound sad per se, but they certainly are downcast. The chiming guitar intro on “Sugarfree” that serves as the listener’s point of entry to the album sets the tone for the rest of the record in more ways than one. It’s subdued, restrained, and tinged with unease. The highest peaks on Serfs of Today are, in contrast, depictions of severe emotional lows. “Orcachief” is a dour breakup song, executed in a fashion similar to Lou Reed’s early solo work which floats up into ether on the wings of a tastefully executed keyboard melody. Late album highlight “Softspot” feels positively weary; the line, “I grew up in a home / But it wasn’t my own,” speaking volumes in its raw, painful simplicity.

The only critique that can be leveled at Serfs of Today is that the songwriting is inconsistent. For every stroke of brilliance shown on tracks like “I Haven’t Learned” and “Last Minute,” there are numbers like “Get Away From the Thing” and “Catamaran,” which feel like throwaways despite using similar sonic ingredients. However, Jons successfully confirm the old adage, “less is more,” by using simple instrumentation and carefully penned tunes to communicate relatable and positively human anguish.