Shamir - Shamir (Cover Artwork)


Shamir (2020)


The enigmatic Shamir Bailey, part pop star introvert, part queer Black punk, part effervescent outcast, dropped “On My Own” to the public mere months after his first 2020 full length release Cataclysm. The song signaled to fans and detractors alike, and per the artist’s own admissions, that Shamir would be embracing a fuller, more mainstream sound than the parse indie offerings of recent releases including the aforementioned Cataclysm. Not only that, but Shamir was excited about the strength of his new recordings to the point he released the single without firm information on the follow up release and get the music out to his fans during Pride Month.

With the October drop of the first self-titled release of his career, Shamir confirms what Shamir told people to expect with the ironically titled in context “On My Own.” Shamir is a come full circle album that uniquely ties his discography together while simultaneously taking a giant step forward. In part, this is because with Shamir the artist collaborates with a handful of producers and Philadelphia musicians including Kyle Pully from Thin Lips to create a sound that feels as intentional as it does genreless. It sparks in shades of dream pop, twangs in country, and is colored by nu-wave and post-punk bodywork.

For example, the spaghetti western of “Other Side” is somewhere between La Sera’s last release and a rejuvenated mix of something that wouldn’t sound out of place at a modern day Lilith Fair. “Pretty When I’m Sad” has a skitzy snare drum that pops through the song allowing the chorus to really shimmer as Shamir sings, “Let’s fuck around inside each other’s heads.” “Diet” is a shameless pop-rock track that finds a classic verse/chorus structure executed with enough fuzz to wonder if dust has collected between your needle and the vinyl. It compliments the bright vocals Shamir brings to the track - and album as a whole. The new found clarity in his voice is chalked up to ditching drugs and cigarettes within the last year.

Shamir deals with a handful of weighty topics, mental health issues, and acceptance of self. Over the distorted chords of “Paranoia,” Shamir takes on masking his insecurities with weed and alcohol. “There We Go” uses a reference from a Jeffrey Dahmer movie to great effect with the chorus “And I just wanna see his insides / And the colors they could be / And maybe taste his blood / Because I always wanted to try it.” On the baroque pop of closer “In This Hole,” Shamir sings of breaking free from the things that hold one back over strings and atmospherics that give the effect of transcendence.

While Shamir is the artist’s seventh LP and second one of the year, it certainly stands as the most clear eyed representation of his art. For old fans who may have left after his turn away from the mainstream pop found on Ratchet to those who appreciated the lo-fi aesthetics of his experimental bedroom follow ups to those who haven’t had the pleasure of introduction, Shamir delivers on all fronts.