by Kenny Ramos (@KennyRamosLife)
Clicking the link to Shamir’s Bandcamp profile there reads the following: “Shamir is Shamir and remains Shamir through and through, no matter what the universe puts him through.” I hold these words to be the whole truth, because who else’s latest album and EP did I just listen to in my living room? You guessed it—Shamir’s.
So why then did I reassess the obvious as I sat down to give the latest album, Resolution along with the EP, Room, a listen? It’s because all I’ve heard and thought about Shamir leading up to my listening session had been about how his sound is different now or he’s not like he used to be. But no—Shamir is Shamir and remains Shamir, people. The universe will continue to put us all through it, and if that affords another chance for new work from Shamir, then I’d say we better just listen first and allow his process to take shape without our opinions muddling it. At 24 years old, Shamir has all the time in the world to make things right for himself, and with his third album in two years, we can take solace in the fact that he’s been hard at work. We’re not yet close to seeing all he has to offer musically, but just understand the artist remains the same.
This is a review about the album Resolution, but I can’t write it without briefly acknowledging Room first. The EP is a playful two song release where Shamir plays the role of a singing cowboy, donning a purple and black fringe getup on the cover that could make the phrase, “yeehaw” sound cute for once. It sounds like Shamir had fun making it, and I’m happy for him, because he’s putting out music that’s fulfilling, as opposed to just music that appeases label execs. It’s a feel good bedroom project (literally) that could not be better even with a bigger budget.
Resolution opens up softly and solemnly with “I Can’t Breathe,” a cradle song about police brutality against Black Americans. The song follows the characters Gary and Bobby, who mirror Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, with a few added details to the narrative. It’s an attempt by Shamir to soothe and heal vocally, coming on four years since both of those killings occurred.
“Panic” sonically captures the same feeling it’s named after perfectly; Thumping bass drums and droning guitars kick in halfway through in such a way that I could only describe as chest-clenching. It’s then followed by “Dead Inside,” another lyrically uneasy, but nonetheless honest and well-articulated song. “I want more than what I’m offered but I know I’ll get overwhelmed/Some days I feel so lucky and sometimes I feel doomed and damned”—the verbal knockaround hits close to home for anyone who has ever suffered from depression. Being pinballed by your emotions so that you’re forced to take things day by day is a soul sucking vicious cycle.
Overall, much of the album feels very personal—not necessarily written with an audience in mind, but definitely a pure fleshing out of Shamir’s untempered thoughts. And given his trajectory in the last two years, creating music in this fashion will only make his art more potent as he matures. Shamir has resisted the urge to cash in on growth, and this album delivers on experimentation and fine tuning. Personally, my favorite track is “The Things You Loved.” Going back to my praise of Room, this country song has a slow strumming guitar and steady drum beat that surprised me much like the EP. It would fit right in at last call inside a Western-themed bar. It’s there for you to sulk, reminisce, and get back in the saddle, cowboy and/or cowgirl.
The album closes out with “Larry Clark,” named for the director known for his work focusing on misled youth and the darkness associated with coming of age. Lyrically, there’s talk of chain smoking, heavy drinking, and general transgressive behavior. What’s interesting to me though, is how hazy and gurgled the guitar plays on till the very end—the instrument sounds worn and on its last legs. Taken together, it’s a song about living fast from a juvenile and glamorized perspective, being played in a way that’s busted from experience. If I had to guess, the person who wrote these lyrics isn’t the same age as the one performing it. Like the work of Larry Clark (the director), “Larry Clark” (the song) is a dreamy ode to kids behaving badly; may they all live long enough to nurse their hangovers with Pedialyte as we do in adulthood.