No Serial Killer – No Serial Killer – Singles Review/Album Sampler
Do my eyes deceive me? EIGHTY-THREE tracks!?!
No Serial Killer clearly ain’t messin’ around here folks…a set-list of this magnitude is certainly bound to make a memorable impression, even just by lookin’ at it. The artwork is pretty damn eye-catching too while we’re on the subject of what immediately stands out long before pushing play – I don’t know why, but I seemed to think I was in for a more mischievous sound based on the picture, when I knew I’d be listening to a band called No Serial Killer…I mean, it SHOULD be a friendlier sound with a name like that, right? I never really escaped the feeling this ghoul on the cover was gonna leap out & gnaw my bones.
As for the sound itself, I’m pleased to report No Serial Killer is about as non-horrifying as it gets – this is quite a blissful combination of beautifully expressive vibes both classic & new…it’s highly artistic, poetic, and really kinda gorgeous music when it comes right down to it. It all might look like it’s come right out of Creepshow with the cover…but the most of any tie-in to some kind of horror-theme from there on in would at best be to point out you might very well hear these tunes haunting the halls of the Overlook hotel…but other than that, we’re talking about pretty damn welcoming, bright, and inviting sound here.
Before you panic…I know my regular readers know I tend to go track-by-track when I’m reviewing music – I promise ya, as much as I’d love to, you know we’d all be here ‘til next week reading if I was to discuss each and every one of these eighty-three tracks with ya. It’s not as dramatic as I’m making it seem either – you’ll find the set-list of this epic self-titled record has a whole bunch of intros and short artistic cuts in the mix as it plays on. Still a TON of music in that lineup as well, don’t get it twisted – but there aren’t eighty-three full-length cuts, so no worries, it won’t take you ‘til next week to listen to it either.
So I’ll pass on some highlights, and we’ll dig into several different moments along the way. Important to note, is that there’s not a single moment of actual bass-guitar on this whole record as I understand it – the low-end is supplied enthusiastically by the project’s main musical Wizard of Oz, A.K.M. Uniqueness right there from this UK-based project straight off the drop, and it continues from there – the album is lined with guest-star appearances from North American singers, and completed entirely via the internet. All that checks out, and all that works for me. Conceptually? I ain’t gonna lie, it’s a bit strange to say the least…”A.K.M.’s ‘No Serial Killer’ is a music concept designed to eliminate murder in society. If a person feels they’re going crazy, before they reach ‘the breaking point’ they must recognize that to kill others is evil, nasty and to put it mildly, highly inconsiderate.” I mean…they’re not wrong? I’m assuming there’s a high-degree of wry irony in what No Serial Killer was looking to create…I ain’t gonna lie to ya, it’s impossible to tell for sure, because if it IS intended as some sort of tongue in cheek humor, it’s about as dry as the UK is synonymous for being with all the music on this record seeming to be so straight-ahead. Maybe they’re on a real mission & they really DO just want to put an end to serial killing…and I mean, like, they kinda really make it so that we don’t really have a choice but to be on their side about that, you dig? Almost as if we were to say we didn’t like No Serial Killer, that we’d be admitting we ARE one.
“Bird Of Prey” was my first experience with listening to No Serial Killer…and of course in listening, the concept starts to become a bit more clear. This record deals with the idea that we don’t really know when those moments in life that push us over the edge are really coming…”Bird Of Prey” sounds like it’s playful, unassuming, and naturally chill…but the more you dig into it, the more you realize that this cut is like the calm before that internalized storm. Sitting outside in the open air, living life, perhaps not even fully realizing just how much things are changing on the inside, and not realizing that it might already be too late & that we’re long past that edge of no return already. Like the bird is life, and we’re the prey…maybe that’s just my interpretation…but it’s almost like the main character of this first cut is just trying to be happy, and keeps encountering obstacles, scenarios, and feelings attempting to thwart that. Not entirely sure which guitarist, whether it’s Nicky or Sami, that I’m consistently digging on – but I can definitely tell ya that the guitars in general were a huge highlight right off the drop; with the way that the bass piano of A.K.M. holds the melody steady, the guitars get more freedom to roam creatively than you find in most music. Singer Audrey does an excellent job in this natural state of wondering aloud as well…”Bird Of Prey” almost has a Stereolab-esque quirkiness to it in the sense that you can instantly tell that what you’re listening to is music, of course – but you recognize it for having the artistic bend it has as well. Everything seems to fit where it should though…I hear no reason to complain at the start, and I’m stoked on what I hear in the ideas & execution overall. “Bird Of Prey” immediately stokes the curiosity of where No Serial Killer as a record would be going, getting you interested in what may follow.
“Deep In My Heart” would be an excellent example of what I was referring to from the get-go here; this would be massively interpretive, and all based on the context you have. There’s no reason at all to assume that anyone putting this tune on at random, wouldn’t feel like they’ve found a completely straightforward, simple love song, pure & true as it gets. But if this was written from the point of view of a potential serial killer…well…then you’d be looking at something entirely different…a Fatal Attraction type tale that would be more about relentless infatuation as opposed to just an innocent take on love, you dig? “Deep In My Heart” sounds wonderfully sweet…but I’m being super cagey & cautious still, tentatively waiting for this blissful bubble to burst…even at the very end with the repeating of “there’s something you gotta hear” it becomes like a mysteriously urgent plea as you listen to it, invoking a feeling like…I mean…you start to wonder where all this would lead if this character were not to be heard as they desire to be. You won’t get the answer to that here on this one track alone…No Serial Killer has really put the work into this whole storyline from what I can tell, and like a great story, there are chapters that specifically function to advance the overall tale & build on the details – but that’s exactly what also makes it so much more tough to fully grasp where this may or may-not be going at the start. A.K.M. has done an exceptional job of finding great players & stellar voices to bring these songs to life, and Nicki Gonzalez puts in an angelic & graceful performance that is oddly charming & endearing really.
Shaley brings a brilliantly classic & timeless vibe to the sound of “The Sweetest Cyborg” – almost drifting right into the golden era of a mix between Elvis & Jerry Lee from back in the day. If I’m getting this right here…my theory would be something along the lines of how sometimes we affix our thoughts to something specific in a way that’s almost robotic beyond our own comprehension. Of course, this doesn’t always have to be a bad thing at all…but there is a helplessness that comes along with feeling programmed or not fully in control of your own thoughts, you know what I mean? “The Sweetest Cyborg” seems to echo this sentiment as perfectly as it does beautifully in the process…it goes on to present love as both a great thing, but a burden of sorts as well…and you can really start to appreciate just how the twisted contrast of emotions & cheerful sound at work seems to have your brain dancing along with the music in multiple directions, musing over how this storyline record moves along. So in my opinion – the cyborg is US, ain’t it? We’re all “The Sweetest Cyborg” to a degree. We’re human robots with a set pattern & script of emotions that if we’re not too careful, become automated within ourselves, and even worse, if we’re not paying attention, our wires can get crossed and what starts out as the feeling of love might perhaps become something altogether different & twisted somehow. Maybe I’m revealing way too much about myself in projecting my theories & thoughts this time around.
But then again, maybe not. When “Everyday” started out with “As I grip the handle of an axe, I wish I knew how to relax…” I felt like I might not be so far off the mark with what I’ve been hearing here, and that this is more or less another take on Fatal Attraction of sorts, cheerful as it may seem. You can hear the madness creeping in slowing through the lyricism…and man can you hear the skills on the guitar that comes into “Everyday” to lay down some savagely hot licks, provided by Ziv. Audrey does a solid job with her moment on the mic once again…the design of the melody is a bit more decisively rigid & precise here to a degree…perhaps a bit static in that same regard – but the added personality added in via Ziv’s guitar work count for a ton here. It’s not monotonous when it comes to the vocals, but they’re intended to be fairly expressionless as well if I’m hearing this correctly…kind of like a catatonic state of singing where thoughts are spilled into the air in real-time in a somewhat natural but dissociative state. The lyricism will reflect a sort of dilapidated & self-defeated spirit as well, but not without sparks of hope – reflected also in the music, somewhat mimicking what you might imagine the push/pull energy and back & forth thoughts that a person right on the brink of sanity would have to wrestle with before going over the edge. “Everyday” makes it crystal clear there’s a high degree of obsession at work here.
Of the cuts on this record towards its beginning, “I Luv Myself” would likely make a strong candidate for being the single out of the bunch so far, with a more decisive turn into hooks people will notice beyond the art itself. While there’s the occasional split-second’s worth of questionable timing in a few spots of the main melody at its core…we’re not talking about anything so detrimental that the average everyday listener would even pick up on – most people out there will have no problem movin’ & groovin’ along with this low-end heavy piano-led vibe & never think twice about it. Ultimately, I really like the ideas in the music here…A.K.M. is jammin’ loud & proud with passion, Erika puts in an inspired performance and nails the biggest hooks, and the guitars from Nicky continually crush it with brilliant textures & tones. It might not be a typical single in the standard definition perhaps…it might not even be like much of anything at all that you hear out there in the scene right now either – but you’ll absolutely understand the degree of hook & pull that “I Luv Myself” has when you hear it for yourself. It’s as fun as it is engaging – you’ve gotta hand it to No Serial Killer for coming up with music that’s genuinely interesting; whether I’ve been right or wrong about any of my assumptions is literally beside the entire point – what this band is creating are songs that makes you think, and you’re likely to love what you hear while you’re busy noodling over & debating in your mind what this whole storyline will add up to. It’s a pretty damn nice problem to have at the end of the day…it might take some time to get the full picture as clear as we want it to become, but that’s the art of great storytelling & the sign of a concept album you can get into.
“Make It Beautiful” was probably the first cut I had a harder time with in comparison to the rest. A core melody is a great thing to have, and there’s no doubt that there’s a hook at the heart of “Make It Beautiful” – but it’s definitely got a repetitive aspect to it that really needs to diversify more than it does for the length of a song like this one. To rock with that one part not changing for the duration of 5:25 is a tall ask dear readers, dear friends…and if I’m being honest with ya, it’s what’ll lead a track like “Make It Beautiful” wear out more quickly in comparison to the rest. The parts that do change are in the surrounding instrumentation provided by Michelle’s piano and Nicky’s guitars upon the surface – and there’s no question that “Make It Beautiful” seems to have no problem retaining its sunny-side up demeanor in sound, while once again diving deeper through the contrast of the lyricism dealing with the bleakness of the news & reality of the world we know…you know, the one filled with all that murderin’ that No Serial Killer is attempting to put a stop to through their music. The hopeful spirit comes through the chorus, and many insightful points are made poetically throughout the length of “Make It Beautiful” as it plays on. At the heart of it all, “Make It Beautiful” is equal parts grounded & yet still optimistic as well; No Serial Killer is willing to admit the goal is a lofty one, but also acknowledges it’s not impossible. Maybe we can change the world and “Make It Beautiful” again…maybe it starts by making art & music just like this that helps people see life through a different lens than they might be looking at it from. I’m still gonna tell ya the honest truth in what I hear…and like I said, there’s not a doubt in my mind that the design of “Make It Beautiful” has the potential to reveal its wear & tear faster than the majority of this lineup will over time – but for the moment, on those initial spins, the positivity & hope at the core of this song and the conviction that Audrey sings it with make for a beautiful moment on this self-titled record.
I think you really gotta look at this whole thing like a Rock-Opera of sorts, or as being envisioned every bit as much as a musical with specifically vivid scenes to match the concepts that tie it all together. In that regard, it’s a really different style of sound that goes against the grain of so much that’s out there right now, but also possesses its own artistic design that has the real potential to change the landscape. Whether we fully understand how each part of the record relates to the next or not, we should really all be craving music as inventive & well-thought-out as what No Serial Killer is creating. “Misfit” is a stellar example of songwriting…kind of examining that feeling of being so close but so far away from the one you love…or again, are obsessed with. The contrast is continually outstanding in all the right ways – it’s rare that you’re gonna hear a hook like “you kill me slowly my dear” sound so superbly sweet, and when you’re singing this song around the house all of a sudden, don’t be surprised when your own husband, wife, and/or significant other starts raising an eyebrow or two! Like I said, context matters…they’d have to listen to the rest of No Serial Killer in order to get the full story…a piece of this tune without it would sound pretty outright twisted on its own for sure – but at the same time, if you were just passing by this song booming outta some speakers in a store window as you walked down the street, you’d probably assume you were listening to the most uplifting & sweet tune you’d heard this year. And to be fair, that still might not be an unfair assessment! “Misfit” is without question a puzzler of its own in that regard, but it’s also remarkably fun, entertaining, upbeat, and makes light of the dark in completely brilliantly poignant & intentionally ironic ways that damn near rival the subtlety of a Nirvana tune from the mid-90s. Different style here in what No Serial Killer does of course, but you get the idea – it’s all in the attitude, and the amount of interpretive space they’ve collectively given to us as listeners to jump to our own conclusions as we listen, is purely fantastic. It’s also got one of my favorite performances from Audrey.
I feel like, as an idea, “We’re All Going 2 Die” is one of the better cuts on this record all-around – and there are moments in the performance that also rival the quality of the thought put into this cut too. That being said…I also felt like No Serial Killer ran up against a few issues in the mix comparatively here, which don’t get me wrong, is bound to fluctuate over the course of eighty-three tracks…it’s almost an impossible task to have a record of that magnitude fully line up from start to finish…and “We’re All Going 2 Die” sounded like it could use a bit more polish & shine to me in comparison to the lively mix & brightness that “Misfit” had beforehand. What I do like is the main rhythm line supplied by A.K.M., I love the guitars from Nicky as always, and I felt like the vocals of Kirsten showed monumental flashes of a genuine superstar talent. I did still feel like there was a moment here & there where she could have been a bit more confident in the lead, but when she’s right on the money, it’s undeniable. I’m assuming that’s her we hear in the background as well – and everything there has all the perfectly colorful & confident sound we all love, bringing a warmth to this devastatingly realistic moment on the No Serial Killer album. I mean…once again, they ain’t wrong – “We’re All Going 2 Die” and that’s the truth – as to whether or not you wanna come face to face with your own mortality whilst you sing along might be another thing altogether…but I’m mighty inclined to give this song a thumbs-up of approval. I think the music needs to come up a bit, I think the vocals will thrive just as well as they do set into the sound a bit more and that Kirsten will have no problem still standing out in the mix…but with a slight polish & added brightness, I really do think that “We’re All Going 2 Die” would be one of the album’s strongest for sure. It still MIGHT BE even as it IS, I ain’t gonna lie to ya…I think the glow of the backing vocals is brilliant, I think the piano from A.K.M. has spark & personality to it, Kirsten’s best moments make a huge impact, & the guitars from Nicky seem to get better & better as the song plays on, right into his solos in the finale.
While “Big Mistake” advances the storyline significantly with suspicions abound, this one was right on the edge of how I felt about the core of the main melody on “Make It Beautiful” earlier on with its repetition. For me, I credit Shaley big-time for making the most out of the main hooks on this cut – I think she’s given them all the right energy & sweetness in tone to make them reach their max potential, and the result is that we’re willing to overlook a more static design once again because of that. Don’t get me wrong – No Serial Killer deserves a TON of credit for the ambitious nature of this record – making music is one thing, making music designed to move an entire story along the course of eighty-three tracks as a completely different realm of daringness the likes of most artists & bands would never even try to attempt. So props to No Serial Killer, because I truly do dig it. I think the reality is there are going to be some songs like “Big Mistake” that are more focused on the lyrical content & moving the storyline along than making the music the number one priority, but I think the opposite can also be said of other tunes…in that sense, there is a balance to what I’m hearing overall. I really like the way the layers between what Michelle does on piano & what Nicky does with the guitar interact as well…and shout-out to Caleb on the drums, who has proven to be reliable on the kit at all times through this whole lineup. “Big Mistake” might not be my favorite of the bunch, but it’s still well worth a listen; Shaley puts in a stellar performance & the words themselves are key to piecing the clues in this concept together in-full.
While “Sleepless” doesn’t quite become as static in its vibe & melody as “Make It Beautiful” did before – it does come close…and it’s hard not to advise some caution to No Serial Killer in that regard when it comes to the longer cuts. Repetition can work both for & against you when it comes to music – in my opinion, it’s something you can definitely get away with more in short doses than in long ones…it’s all about getting that style of approach in there without us actually realizing that’s what we’re hearing, you follow me? I do like that singer Mella brings an entirely different sound & textural quality to the record through the tone of her voice…she’s got a very full sound of her own & an engaging style of singing that gets a lot of sincerity into the mix for us to enjoy. Like I’ve been tellin’ ya from the get-go, credit to A.K.M. as well for knowing who to add where & which players to bring into the fold at what times & such – you’ll also find the pairings of talents to complement each other really well between the music & what’s happening on the microphone in these tunes. I also think that in comparison to a track like “Make It Beautiful,” there’s a lullaby-like aspect to “Sleepless” that allows for more acceptance of a longer cut with less dramatic changes along the way. I mean, ultimately that’s what the Cowboy Junkies built an entire career on, so it’s not like it doesn’t work; but you get what I’m saying – we’re kinda more than happy to simply drift along with the inherent sweetness there is to be found on “Sleepless” and don’t need to spend any time questioning its motivations or inspirations beyond that really. That’s not to say it doesn’t have something to say or that it doesn’t contribute to the storyline overall, but it is also a degree or two more straightforward in its sentiment and allows for a moment of unfiltered sweetness.
Don’t get me wrong…as an audiophile, I love what I hear on “So Alive” – but as to whether or not that’s a sound that the masses out there can get behind…I think No Serial Killer has stacked the deck against themselves here with the mix on this one. I ain’t saying it’s impossible – I’m just saying this is probably a bit too sparse & too strange for the everyday listener to hang with. I ended up being of two minds here in my own assessment…I love the texture of the backing melody and personally think that’s amazing, regardless of how I think others might hear that – and I love how that enhances the clarity of the guitars from Nicky as well. As for Nicki Gonzalez’s second appearance, I think she’s got her moments where she’s sensational, and I think there are moments where the metering & flow are almost too rigid for her to find the gear she needs to make a few spots reach their full potential. That’s a double-edged sword when it comes right down to it, and there needs to be compromise reached between the songwriting of A.K.M. and the singers he’s working with in that regard. As in, sometimes there’s gonna need to be an extra word or syllable added in later on for a singer to get their best; and conversely, sometimes a singer is also going to have to stretch & expand words stylistically to get to the heart of the intended melody. Somewhere in the middle, when those two things meet, you find the magic you’re looking for and things won’t sound as cut into blocks line-for-line & have that desired organic fluidity & natural flow. “So Alive” also takes an oddly unexpected political turn for a brief moment too, seemingly right out of the blue…I ain’t gonna lie to ya, this was a much more bizarre cut to examine in comparison to the others.
“Summer” features a stronger performance from Nicki Gonzalez…still delicate, humble, and grounded in her dreamy vibes…she gets an enchanting & sweet performance into the vocals of this song. At the end of the day, you’ve gotta recognize the poetic pattern that No Serial Killer writes within and somewhat acknowledge the challenges that can present at times, but I felt like Nicki was still able to get to an endearing Indie-style sweetness that a lot of people will appreciate. All in all, it’s got just a hint of psych-60s hippie spirit to it with late seventies style ballad design, and an Indie/Dream-Pop sound to it that’s actually quite relevant for what’s out there to this day. Essentially, “Summer” draws a bit more upon what’s tried, tested, and true, while proudly keeping the focus on an unquestionably sweet sound that’s bound to connect to a whole bunch of hearts & minds out there without feeling like they’re forcing their way into our lives. The gentle ease and natural vibes of “Summer” echo the peaceful imagery of the lyricism…kind of like a slightly brighter Mazzy Star-like vibe goin’ on here, which is A-OK with me. It felt like “Summer” really had a lot of sincere light & love radiating through its spirit…I really enjoyed this cut.
Alrighty…let’s just tell it like it IS here, shall we? Nicky’s a golden God when it comes to the guitars on “The End” – and the main hooks of the vocals from Kirsten are purely outstanding. From my perspective, the bigger the challenge, the more demanding the ask of her vocals, the more she seemed to shine. Like I’ve been tellin’ ya – these aren’t always the easiest songs to sing when it comes right down to it – but you’ll hear that when technique & tone are seriously required, Kirsten shows up here ready to knock it out of the park through her boldest moments on the mic. And in my world that counts folks! That counts big time. Think of it like this – have you ever tried to sing a poem? You can always hear a natural melody and a cadence to the words you read in your mind – but singing them is another story altogether…it can create a push/pull of energy that can quite often be tough to find the ultimate balance for – but equally true, is how one significant highlight moment can make an entire song spring to life and become an unforgettable experience. I felt like between what’s happening on the microphone in Kirsten’s best moments, and in the radiantly vibrant tones of Nicky’s guitar ringing out into the atmosphere, you’ll find multiple highlights that make “The End” stand out as one of the better tunes in this set of audibly imaginative & innovative creativity at work. Also not lost on me, is the irony of “The End” appearing twenty-songs prior to the official conclusion of this massive recording session – it shows up as track number sixty-three with twenty still left to follow it afterwards…well played No Serial Killer, well played. All-around though, I think they rock a really smooth groove and flexible vibe here that has a lot of dynamics playing in their favor between the layers of how its mixed and how each one makes its impact on us as we listen…fantastic clarity at work here and excellent ideas combined.
“Or is this only a game? Oh ain’t that, ain’t that a shame? Your songs they all sound the same.” It’s lines like that, that have me feeling like there’s such a massive chance so much of what No Serial Killer is doing has flown right the heck over my head by considerable miles – but perhaps that line in the final cut I’ve got right here called “Android Means Business” is telling us everything we’ve been missing, and maybe it’s the real key to understanding some of the concept driving at least portions of this record? I mean…at this point in time, I’m like a million miles deep down the rabbit-hole just trying to keep up with No Serial Killer and the wild concepts potentially driving this record…and still trying to figure out how much of this contains the driest of dry humor, or doesn’t even have an inkling of it at all! Like I’ve been tellin’ ya for years now – credit where credit is due…I don’t often feel like I am just scratching the surface of the meaning or concepts behind a record like I have been with this sampling from the No Serial Killer album. All that I can tell you without question, is that A.K.M. is definitely onto…something here…and while I might not be sure of WHAT that even is, yet – I can completely get right into the deep dive No Serial Killer has made into this combination of art & music and its outright remarkable ambition. Deb makes an appearance on “Android Means Business” to give this final cut a new twist we haven’t heard in the set-list I’ve got here – and she holds her own with sweetness & soulful sound. There’s no question that this band is thinking about music on a different level than the rest are…and ultimately, I think that kind of uniqueness always leads to a dedicated fan-base that is bound to stay loyal over time. No Serial Killer is without question a musical oddity…but I’d be crazy not to say this was a whole lot of fun to crack right into and theorize on…whatever it is this band has goin’ on, is gonna get people talkin.’
Find out more about No Serial Killer at Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NoSerialKOfficial
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed by sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!