Normally the self-titled album is a statement of intent. And, indeed, on his seventh full-length record, the Las Vegas singer-songwriter has perhaps produced his defining collection. ‘Shamir’ is unpredictable, switching genre at breakneck speed, shifting from toe-tapping bluegrass (‘Other Side’) to jittery indie that evokes The National’s 2017 record ‘Sleep Well Beast’ (‘Pretty When I’m Sad’) and sleek synth-pop (‘Running’). Take a look at Shamir’s journey through the past five years, though, and this eclecticism makes sense.
Shamir signed to XL Recordings, home to Adele, in 2014, when he was just 19. A buzzy prospect, he released strutting, cowbell bop ‘On the Regular’, followed by his debut ‘Ratchet’ the following year, a whizzing whip-smart album fuelled by bouncing house beats and disco licks. It set him up as one of the most hotly tipped artists around, but this music wasn’t what Shamir had set out to create. After several scrapped projects he ended up leaving XL, almost quit pop music but instead released his 2017 follow-up ‘Hope’, which was written in just one weekend.
It was a total left turn, for which he substituted buoyant production for scuzzy lo-fi guitars and post-punk riffs, all anchored by Shamir’s distinctive countertenor vocals. On this new self-titled album (his second release of 2020, following the grungy ‘Cataclysm’, released in April) the musician embraces the lo-fi sounds that have long permeated his music, fusing punk with alt-pop hooks. Opener ‘On My Own’, a powerful celebration of being comfortable in solitude, is a stonking, ‘90s-inspired straight-up pop tune, with lyrics that feel especially pertinent given Shamir’s musical journey: “I refuse to fucking suffer / Just to feel whole”).
Musically it’s hugely focused, each song short and sharp and coated in precise production, though it’s also split up by a series of short vocal interludes. While they add personality, these can make the album jar a little. Still, this is a jubilant record. ‘Shamir’ is the sound of a consistently evolving artist reclaiming their path and making the music they want to make. His seventh, self-titled album is the sound of an artist who’s finally found his musical home.
Release date: October 2
Record label: Self-released