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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Review: R00k - Sera


R00k – Sera
2009, R00k

R00k is the musical expression of Bradley James Falconer's muse. The San Francisco-based singer/songwriter enlists some of the Bay Area's top musicians on Sera, an eletro-pop treatise on overcoming personal tragedy and becoming comfortable with who you are in relation to the world around you. Pitching in along the way is pianist Jonathan David Baker, Regina Espinoza, Susie Davis (Mick Jagger, Tracy Chapman, Sinead O'Connor), Victoria Theodore (Stevie Wonder), Troy Lampkins (Narada Michael Walden), Billy "Shoes" Johnson (Santana) and Juan Escovedo (Pete Escovedo and brother of Sheila E.).

Sera is comprised of 8 full length songs and 12 short compositions that Falconer calls "loops". Sera goes from dark to light, focusing on the suicide of Falconer's father when he was sixteen and his struggles to "come out" as gay. These experiences are seen viewed from a stereographic perspective where one lens is clinical and the other emotional, with Falconer serving alternately as therapist and patient. The first full track is Eat, a song about the struggle to come to terms with who you are. The song has spiritual and physical elements to it and displays the severe disturbance that most people go through as they develop into who they are, compounded by self-perception of being different or not fitting in. Go Away reflects the deep ambivalence people might feel in relationships when they are as yet uncomfortable with themselves. The song is has a disturbed element in both the lyrics and instrumentation that never quite resolves.

When I Can't Go On has an ethereal jazz sound with a dreamlike quality; The song is sung in the present tense, but one is left with the impression that the protagonist is daydreaming about a possible future. When I Can't Go On is a melancholic song countered with a sense of hopeless optimism. Ultimately, it's a song of contradictions than can't be entirely rectified, and perhaps this is the intent. Either way it's a highly intriguing composition. R00k offers up a trippy, electronic version of Amazing Grace. This is the most blatant statement on the album, but Falconer brings a distinct spiritual component to his songwriting that is seen more in the seams than anywhere else on Sera. I've heard Amazing Grace covered in many, many fashions; this wasn't one of my favorites but I'll give him points for originality. Bastard delves into the need-based relationship that Falconer perceives with God in terms that might be a bit unsettling for some.

Sail is written as a classic love song, but tells a story that isn't exactly picture-perfect. It's a strongly melodic tune with potential that would have benefited from a more organic presentation. Far is the most pop oriented creation on Sera, with NSync style harmonies and a happy dance beat. The song is strongly optimistic about a relationship and the state of life Falconer feels. The "loops" that connect the songs run the gamut from dark to light, poppy to bizarre, but serve as an odd sort of musical glue that holds the disparate compositions presented here together. In the end, Sera is an interesting study in becoming. R00k blooms from the mouth of sadness and despair to find hope and love, with all the bumps and bruises along the way on display. Sera is a compelling listen.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about R00k at http://www.r00kmusic.com/ or www.myspace.com/r00kmusic. You can purchase Sera as a download through iTunes, or download the album for free on R00k’s website.

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