Last year’s Voice Memos was a staggering (and pardon the easy transition) surprise from Natasha El-Sergany. Recorded as simply as the title implied, Voice Memos was an intimate portrait of a person blossoming into an artist without abandoning the emotions, actions, and consequences of humanity. El-Sergany, an immigrant lawyer when not donning her musical guise, is not one to leave behind a single part of her when she picks up a guitar and creates her breathy persona.
So how does Serious Dreams separate itself from Voice Memos? For one, it’s recorded on four tracks. Secondly, it’s not as ramshackle as its predecessor, and yet it’s somehow far more charming because of it. It’s not as if El-Sergany has traded up to create unrecognizable music. Serious Dreams goes deeper into the rabbit hole; the air is thinner and stuffy, and it begins to bounce of the dirt walls slowly widening as she plummets further and faster until *pffft*. Once she lands, El-Sergany finds herself surrounded by the myth and reality of life and music in the Pacific Northwest. “Late July,” a Grouper fog drifting in from the Puget with the power to devour to Lake Washington;”All My Failures” the hard surface, from which she bounces off to find Jesy Fortino laying next to her. And though Serious Dreams has a familiar pedigree to its music and location, it’s not treading the same ground. For example, the lazy slide into acceptance that dots the melody of “All My Failures” is far more So Cal than Pacific NW. “Low on Sleep” slowly rises to become a Euro-style drone, not far removed from a lost Rameses III track save for El-Sergany’s listless, yet beautiful voice. Serious Dreams is far more ethereal than the stripped bare Voice Memos, but that doesn’t make it any less naked. It’s a thin veil, but certainly a needed layer of new skin to survive the gray winters of the Pacific NW, not to mention the new daunting causes of an immigration lawyer in 2017. Serious Dreams is a reminder that we are all human, even when we strive to move past our most primitive instincts. A few more tracks of sound doesn’t remove the intrapersonal communication.