Joana Serrat
Big Wave


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale STAFF
June 10th, 2024 | 9 replies


Release Date: 06/07/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Some bitter with the sweet

Catalan singer-songwriter Joana Serrat has built a career over the past decade-plus by simply creating music that is overwhelmingly, relentlessly, pleasant. Her songs, typically an easy-going amalgam of folk/country/blues, instantly conjure a feeling of wistful melancholy only enhanced by simple hooks and hummable melodies. They’re the kind of tunes which just make you feel good.

The last paragraph’s assorted praises apply to the entirety of Serrat’s growing discography, but 2021’s Hardcore From The Heart saw the musician take a giant step forward. With that gem of an album, Serrat managed to marry her traditional rootsy Americana-esque sound, which has always been quite dreamy in presentation, with a more full-throated dose of dream pop and shoegaze. It was a match made in heaven, fitting perfectly with her beautiful voice, and helped along by the fact that many of the record’s songs are among the best she’s ever penned. In the end, it’s one of the finest releases of recent years, even if still residing far below the radar.

Now, it’s time for the follow-up. Big Wave has Shaquille O’Neal-sized shoes to fill, so it’s perhaps wise that Serrat doesn’t try to surpass Hardcore From The Heart at its own game, rather aiming to provide listeners with a different kind of record this time around. In fact, the singer-songwriter’s latest stakes out markedly different sonic territory from her usual output.

While Serrat’s songs have often contemplated dark subjects, musically she’s previously nearly always relied upon gentle, warm, lush soundscapes. Those aren’t exactly absent here, either, but the hints of turbulence displayed in her lyrics have now begun to infect the arrangements as well - many of these tunes lean upon post-punky and noisy stylings in an unprecedented way. Words like “brooding” and “ominous” repeatedly come to mind, particularly in a track like “Feathers”, with its bleak and rather militant mood, while Serrat’s vocals feel far more urgent in their delivery than usual. “This House”, too, while more stripped-back, is unexpectedly sinister and haunting, like a Gothic twist in the musician’s typical formula. Meanwhile, closer “The Ocean” is a suitable last glance at the “new look” Joana Serrat, being a loud and energetic number which ends with wave upon (big) wave of droning clamor.

All this isn’t to say that Big Wave is a complete shakeup from the artist’s normal style. Most of the songs are still based in folk, and they generally maintain a sheen of effervescence as well, even as “dreamy” frequently threatens to become “nightmarish” here. And, it’s notable that several of the tracks, especially in the album’s second half, like the lonesome “Are You Still There?” and the beautifully ethereal “A Dream That Can Last”, feel much closer in identity to the gaze-meets-folk synthesis which dominated Serrat’s previous triumph.

The headline remains, though, that Big Wave sees the artist striking out on a new path. It’s perhaps inevitable that I assess it against its much-loved predecessor and find it wanting against that very high bar. Frankly, I’m not sure this more aggressive sonic palette represents what Serrat does best, either. But, it’s important to emphasize this is a very good album in its own right composed of a lot of very good songs (I haven’t even mentioned “Freewheel”, which a killer tune fusing “old” and “new” styles quite satisfyingly), and the singer-songwriter’s strengths, a la her winning voice and gift for melody, remain abundantly clear. Beyond that, it’s admirable to try something new. Big Wave might be a surprising listen in many respects for longtime Serrat fans, but change is good, at least sometimes. Just try not to get swept away.



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user ratings (8)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2024


6035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Joana Serrat rules hard - obligatory suggestion to check Hardcore From The Heart if you haven't already.



This is pretty different but also very good

pollastrerostit
June 11th 2024


864 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review! I need to spin a few more times but I enjoyed the album on first listen

I also got the impression the music is a bit harsher -- which is good for my taste. Some song have kind of drone-ish distorted guitars

The cord is a beautiful opener, my fave so far

Trifolium
June 11th 2024


39381 Comments


Ooooh nice! Super glad this is out and even gladder that you reviewed it Sunny!

Certainly checking it, especially since I'm in Catalonia right now!

someone
Contributing Reviewer
June 11th 2024


6760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

actually kinda excited for this. revisited her previous album recently and it still holds up a great deal

pollastrerostit
June 11th 2024


864 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Trifo have fun and good food around here 💕

Trifolium
June 11th 2024


39381 Comments


Thanksssss!! It's definitely been fantastic food-wise so far hmmmmmmmmmm 🥰💖💖💖💖🤤

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2024


6035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks folks! Yeah, Hardcore From The Heart is an amazing album I still come back to regularly.



And Trif, enjoy your time there, sounds awesome!

pollastrerostit
June 25th 2024


864 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lately I find myself going back more often to the previous one, Dripping Springs, such a great beautiful album too

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 25th 2024


6035 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I need to spend more time with that one - my second favorite of hers is 2014's Dear Great Canyon, really chill and beautiful album.



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