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Saroon plays with process on ODDDITTIES VOL. 1

Saroon plays with process on ODDDITTIES VOL. 1

Where does a song come from? Is it birthed from within, or is it floating out there somewhere, waiting to be caught? The answer, as explored on ODDDITIES VOL. 1, the new project from Saroon, is both and neither. The truth is more like: songs come from the intersection between the self and the world, and rather than thinking of songs as objects, we might instead consider them to be a process.

To really understand ODDDITTIES, VOL. 1, it might help to look back at the birthplace of this collection of songs, namely Honest Jams, a songwriting podcast hosted by ayal (who releases music as Saroon) and A. Walker Spring. The premise of Honest Jams is fairly simple: both hosts and guests write songs based on a provided prompt, and the conversation unfolds around the interpretations of the prompt and the resultant songs. It’s a fantastic exploration of various compositional approaches, and a powerful counterpoint to the self-serious mythologizing of artists as singular geniuses who birth their works fully formed from their own heads, quickly and painlessly.

“The natural result of writing more than 200 songs for the podcast was a wide variety of sounds, style…and quality,” writes Saroon of the release. “After the podcast ended at the end of 2023, ayal set out to archive the demos that felt worthy of it into polished studio recordings. This album is the first batch in that endeavor.”

In this regard, ODDDITTIES VOL. 1 offers both finished songs and also a peek behind the curtain, an acknowledgement of the iterative process of songwriting that’s often obscured, intentionally or not, by the natural artistic impulse to present work only in its most polished form. These songs are the finished, polished versions, but the demo versions are also preserved within the podcast for listeners interested in the particulars of their creation.

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The project’s soundscape is heavy with synths, punctuated by arpeggiated lines and programmed drums, and drawn in different directions by the addition of various strings, woodwinds, and Saroon’s multifaceted vocals, layered and processed into a state of fluidity. “Passenger,” opens the album with an invitation to ride shotgun, the groove deep as a bucket seat and the lead glowing like headlights through the dark. “Tutelary Diety” invites a kind of measured ecstasy through the repetition of the mantra “Be in charge of when you’re losing control!” as the track accelerates toward oblivion. “That Hair” balances the lustful with the comedic, an ode to an all-consuming ever-alluring mane. “Waffle/Wobble” is an exercise in semantic satiation, as the two words tilt and flip-flop into one another, spinning further and further from their grounding referents. “Twisting On The Branches With You” is about slugs having slow acrobatic sex in a tree. 

Though all are singular, each song fits oddly yet snugly into the collection, though perhaps none are more snug than the album’s closer. This is the beautifully mournful “Felicette,” the story of the first cat in space, which plays out like a reworking of Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” minus the grandiose figure of Major Tom and the crushing pressure of human achievement as measured by technological progress. Saroon also omits the inevitably heartbreaking end to the story, choosing instead to focus on what’s important: that moment of uneasy and wondrous floating that is the feeling of looking down from on high, suspended just at the moment of creation, with the earth below spreading out like a blank page of possibility.