Las Vegas born indie rock singer-songwriter Shamir Bailey returns with their second album of 2020, following on from the grunge inspired Cataclysm released back in March. Once signed to XL Recordings, Shamir has spent the last few years self releasing most of their various projects of indie pop and rock, allowing a deeper exploration into which various styles and sonic palettes make up the Shamir sound. Self titling an album will usually stand as a statement of integrity and definition as an artist. Shamir is every part representational of that statement as every avenue of Shamir’s sound up to this point is honed in and refined to become some of their most true to heart work yet.
Whilst only standing at just over 27 minutes long, Shamir moves through varying degrees of style and influence. From the pop-punk opener “On My Own” with it’s flowing riff and early 2000’s teen drama film borrowed sound, to the country and western spliced “Other Side” that sways with an air of cool. But this change in style doesn’t feel forced or plastic, with the lo-fi crunchy production that encompasses a wide portion of Shamir’s work staying as a consistent helping to weld every element together. The harsh and pumping riff of “Paranoia” feels almost edging on the border of of punk-metal yet the song stays warm and bright thanks to Shamir’s countertenor voice. Which is one of the most gratifying parts of this album. Shamir’s ability to adapt their voice to these different sounds acts as a showcase of their diversity. From the passion filled melodies of “Running” to the grand finale belt of emotion on closer “In This Hole”, Shamir’s voice is consistently vibrant and emotive. With the varying gliding melodies coming of seamlessly and almost without effort.
Lyrically as well Shamir sounds as confident as ever, finding confidence in solitude on “On My Own”. “Inside myself is where I belong, Maybe I don’t care anymore, And that can be the truth, But I’m not gonna try anymore, To fall in love with you” they sing over the fluttering riff. Not only has Shamir found control in how they release their music and art, but in life as well. Not to be defeated by the ongoing need to be loved by another, but to realise that being loved by yourself is the most important part. And this self worth and self trust continues on “Running” which feels almost like a queer coming out anthem. “Done giving up my light, Just to stay in the dark, Can’t navigate unless I, Lose my religion, lose my sight” they declare on the chorus. A proclomation of self identity and not being defined by the people or places that have encompassed you to be someone you’re not.
The interim talking snippets do often jar the flow of the album however, meant to be as light relief between the emotion filled songs. But just feel slightly forced and out of place, ending up slowing down the pace of the album. There’s also closer “In This Hole” that cuts and splices between flowing violin melodies and staccato hits that splutter and chug along with a real sense of purpose, almost thrown in for the sake of using them. It’s one of the rare occasions on this album that the change in style is not met with the bravado of most of the track listing. “Pretty When I’m Sad” has all the clunky drums of an 80’s pop ballad yet still keeps its rhythm and melody in place with the groove of the album.
This album follows from a slew of albums released this year that have experimented in various styles and genres within one album, think Perfume Genius’ Set My Heart On Fire Immediately and Rina Sawayama’s Sawayama. It may not be the deepest dive into experimentation of sonic diversity at just 27 minutes, yet still holds all the intent and showcases a songwriter not afraid to challenge their ability to push their own boundaries.