Album review by Seraphim Dibble, images provided by Seranine
It would be unfair to not cover things outside the realm of rock, especially when that music is of a superb quality. The album signs of a struggle, by artist seranine, releases on 12th April, 2019. The artist, seranine, is an actress, model, and musician known for livestreaming nearly every aspect of her life on social media. It is sublimely appropriate, then, that she is releasing an album that comes across as a sincere livestream of her words and emotions straight from the heart.
Folk music is known for being just that. Artists like John Denver, Ani DiFranco, and Utah Phillips have long been pouring their beliefs, thoughts, and very lives into their music for decades. Now, it is seranine’s turn to do the same. Opening with “watchmaker”, signs of a struggle grabs at your heartstrings from the opening moment. The chords are soft and comforting, and seranine’s voice carries a delightful melody throughout, in a song that’s about the nature of life. Her next song, “always will be”, is a wrenching song about becoming who she will be. seranine does an excellent job of weaving together a love story with the concept of somebody constantly evolving and growing throughout their life. The melancholy of the guitar and the cheerful sound of her voice provide a fascinating contrast throughout a song that is at once happy and sorrowful.
The entire album comes right from the artist’s bared soul. If any particular song really speaks to this, it is “anchors”. The guitars and vocals take on a sorrowful tone throughout this song. The weariness and pain of trying to exist in an antagonistic society as a trans person is felt throughout the entire song, from each strum of a chord to each syllable. It is also defiant and powerful, a declaration that they do not define her existence, and that she will continue being herself, forgiving others for the hate they throw at her. The follow-up, “everything is normal”, is a poignant piece about how the past doesn’t really stay the past, but comes up again and again. Trauma continues to be a part of the present, even when the cause is several years removed.
“queen anne” begins with a humorous and titillating verse, but the upbeat nature of it is counteracted by a mournful tone in the vocals. Ultimately, like everything in signs of a struggle, it tells a deeper story. On one level, it feels like it’s about loving someone who is dead and gone. On another, it also feels like a story about the importance of consent, and being pushed into something by a loved one. It is fitting, then, that “resection” is the next song. An exploration of the intersections and forgetfulness of life, “resection” is a slow song about the banality with which life throws our plans off.
The theme continues into “never die”. This song speaks about the unending hunger of depression and mental unwellness. Even seranine’s dreams are not free of its reach, to the point that she cannot bear the thought of living forever with this black hole in her chest. This brings the album around in a circle, back to the experience of living as a trans woman in a world where people are terrified of her. Not once does she get angry about it, though, finding it more sad than anything else. She even points out that what people claim to be afraid of is absolutely nothing like the reality of what and who she is, even as “#girlslikeus” points out how often trans women do not matter, until they are dead. signs of a struggle finishes out on the note of pain, with “i call my dad” being a soft, mourning piece about abuse.
While parts of signs of a struggle will especially resonate with those in the trans community, it is an album that has pieces that almost everybody can relate to. From struggles with abuse and mental health to love and changing throughout life, seranine has crafted a superb album that showcases some of the best things of the folk genre. Perhaps the real treasure of this album is that listening to it will have a calming, healing effect as you relate to each song, feeling like she is in the room singing directly to you. Pick it up on bandcamp today!