In a way, the Shreveport collective known as Seratones have had a similar effect to the chemical they’re nearly named after (serotonin): They brighten one’s disposition, increase arousal, and even heal wounds. With two varied full-length albums (2016’s Get Gone and 2019’s Power), the band’s eclectic musical interests and AJ Haynes’ powerhouse vocal have set the stage for the band’s most mature release to date in 2022’s Love & Algorhythms.
This time around, Seratones’ effects might be the same but it requires a bit more work from the listener to get there. The band’s third long-player is a challenging listen in more ways than one, a sign that the band respects the listener more than ever, trusting them to engage with and respond to the music and all it represents.
Joy and love and healing are all still very central to Haynes and company on Love & Algorhythms, but they’re interested in the hard-fought versions of these things. Note that it’s not happiness but joy, not escapism but healing. Past albums might have provided more of the former, but Haynes asks tough questions of her audience on L&A and the invitation isn’t always easy to take.
For one, Love & Algorhythms is an album steeped in Blackness. From its sub-Saharan cross-beats to its Donna Summer vibe to its Black gospel harmonies, the (exciting) musical references are only part of the equation. Haynes also cites Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, and Octavia Butler as lyrical influences, and they come together in powerful questions and personal challenges on songs like “Dark Matter” and “Two of a Kind” and “Get Free.”
“All skin folk ain’t kinfolk,” sings Haynes on “Get Free,” perhaps the best example of all these elements swirling together. The end result is a thrilling psychedelic trip through Seratones’ present interests with scuzzy guitar and a hypnotic pocket carrying the pointed inquiry, “If this is life, how can we get free?” The challenge here is also issued, “I ain’t here to teach what you ain’t ready for.” But as Jesus once said, “For those with ears to hear … ,” there’s a way to consider such heaviness in the midst of such an exhilarating three-minute number.
These steps forward for Seratones are heartening to see, a band continuing to challenge itself even as their platform grows larger. The beautiful “Evidence” is the most vulnerable moment on Love & Algorhythms, as Haynes reads a one-minute “poem interlude” that separates the album’s halves. There are myriad excuses to hide such a moment at the end of an album’s sequence or cut it entirely, but the creative confidence to place it at the LP’s center gives it considerable gravity — as if it wasn’t already such an affecting refrain.