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Unknown Album Review: Serena Ryder ‘Harmony’

A soul-filled, bluesy folk gem.

As part of CMN’s ongoing Music Journalism Course, participants were asked to find a physical copy of an album by an artist they had never heard of. The challenge was to listen and react to the recording without any prior knowledge. 

When browsing through a record store’s inventory, the options feel endless. Unless an artist is recognizable, there’s no telling how you’ll perceive the record. There’s no way to determine how intriguing, or not, it may be.

Nothing but the cardboard tab citing its genre. 

When presented with the assignment of selecting and purchasing a record unknown to me, I encountered Serena Ryder’s Harmony. Instantly the album art caught my eye. The cover has a Brandi Carlile Americana essence, with a hint of country-western. The use of hieroglyphics is unique and each track listing has its own.

“What I Wouldn’t Do” opens up the album with a memorable chant and cliche lyrics over luminous, feel-good instrumentation. “Stompa,” the album’s most proclaimed cut, also demonstrates that sensation. “Fall” constitutes keys that resemble a Christmassy sound in the intro and interludes. 

“Please, Baby Please” is a standout. Based on the title of the track, I assumed that it would be a pleading battle, begging for somebody or something.  Ryder sings about hardships of relationships and heartbreak, while a complimentary male vocal counterpoint brings out its raw originality.

“Call Me” is a piano-heavy ballad, while “Mary Go Round,” “Please,” and “Heavy Love” hold organic, valiant aesthetics. 

After running through Harmony a few times, I did some research to learn about Ryder’s past discography and biography.

She grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and is generally considered folk rock. “Weak in the Knees” and “Stompa” are Ryder’s claims to fame, the latter a top 10 hit in Canada.

Harmony is Serena Ryder’s sixth studio album and was released in 2013. Ryder’s audience primarily resides in Canada, where her albums have reached gold and platinum statutes and have collected Juno awards.

This soul-filled blusey folk aesthetic is right up my alley and I am glad that my instincts guided me to this gem. 

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

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