This week, we are focussing on Revelations, the third album from Las Vegas artist Shamir. 2015's debut album Ratchet was, in itself, somewhat of a revelation. Only 20 at the time of release, Shamir produced a record that was mature beyond its years. From the sophisticated, Prince-esque electro of Call It Off to the intricate wordplay of On The Regular, Shamir set out his stall as an exciting new talent. Now, two years on, the landscape has shifted somewhat and his latest release has left most of the hedonism of Ratchet behind it in favour of an album that is far more measured in its approach.
The album segments quite nicely into three sections of three songs each. The first, as can be expected from most albums nowadays, consists of the showstopper tracks. Over an arcade backdrop on Games, Shamir conjures up a tortured vocal of fired-up frustration as he riles against the fickle wants of the music industry. You Have A Song sits over a more rock-orientated instrumental and carries plenty of Carly Simon spunk in its line “don't think you're special because it's about you”.
90s Kids stands out as the album's real gem. Miraculously sidestepping millennial self-indulgence, the track, complete with its meme-filled Windows 95 inspired video (see below), stands as a riposte to the 'snowflake' brush with which the younger generation is now tarred. As a young(ish) British person, I feel quite offended as I stare into the future abyss while being judged by a generation who benefited from cheap houses, 100% mortgages, free education and guaranteed pensions – especially when they're the ones who gave us all a lift to the abyss in the first place. Shamir, being infinitely more musically talented than I am has set this sentiment to music and the result is a track that made me proud to be part of a generation.
The album's second part begins as Shamir slips into a more fifties vibe for the intelligent Her Story, as opposed to history, a comment on the male-dominated view of society. He remains in this niche for Blooming and Cloudy, though both feel weak and throwaway in comparison. Revelations' concluding section is perhaps the most telling when it comes to Shamir's frame of mind while making the record. Whilst, on the surface, the heavily bass-driven Float and the ethereal Astral Plane might appear bleak, their subject matter concerned with crossing over after death, if you allow yourself to be consumed by Shamir's exceptional voice it is possible to drift along into a glorious catharsis. Closing track Straight Boy echoes themes from Kevin Abstract's American Boyfriend for a powerful sentiment on which to finish although one that, for my money, could be explored further.
There were two things that sprang to mind whilst listening to Shamir's album. The first was the distinct stylistic difference between it and the aforementioned Ratchet. Gone are the playful rhythms and even the slightest semblance of funk, replaced by something far more raw and contemplative. This is very clearly not the same Shamir from two years ago. One of the lines on Ratchet party anthem Make A Scene is “adulthood's a mess” and it now, unfortunately, very much feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the interim period between the releases, Shamir split from his management company and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. These struggles have obviously had an impact and Revelations feels more like a talent showcase than it does a naturally flowing album.
As negative as that sounds, I actually really enjoyed a lot of what Revelations had to offer. I couldn't help but bring to mind the transcendent Tracy Chapman and the heartbreaking fragility that she has cultured throughout her career. Much will be said about Shamir's voice but its beauty is completely undeniable and there is an extent to which I feel it fits melancholia better than it does some of his more upbeat songs. That preference aside, what is demonstrated clearly is that Shamir is an artist with two very taut strings to his bow and I will very much be looking forward to a future album that can really make the most of his multi-faceted talent.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“Well our parents say we're dramatic//But they always ask for more//Than we do//So fuck you”
Las Vegas Shamir
Ratchets Ratchet down a notch
Achieves mixed results
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