Album Review: Shamir – Revelations

By Emily DiAlbert, Contributor
[Father/Daughter; 2017]
Rating: 7/10

Key Tracks: “90’s Kids”, “Cloudy”, “Straight Boy”

Shamir, a Las Vegas native, spent the last three years blowing preconceived notions of music stardom out of the water. The 23-year-old got his start in the DIY scene in 2014, becoming an overnight hit. Soon after, he produced the highly-acclaimed album Ratchet, which resulted in him quickly climbing the indie-pop ladder to fame. The avant-garde singer called his success “accidental” and really wasn’t pleased with this newfound fame. After getting dropped by XL Recordings in the spring of 2017, Shamir released Hope on SoundCloud, going back to his roots by self-producing the album in one weekend. While the critically-successful album was far different in sound from Ratchet, nothing could have prepared his fans for his third LP, Revelations.

On Revelations, Shamir explores what it means to have everything, lose everything and break free from what holds one back. Each track delves into his various outlooks on the world in an unconcealed, provocative light. The album experiments with vocals, sound and instrumentals, reinventing Shamir’s image in ways that can’t be described as anything less than tantalizing, beautiful and certainly ahead of the times. Revelations is a raw glimpse into the life of a misfit that produces art for those who can relate.

“90’s Kids”, the first single released off Revelations, reaches out to the college crowd in amicable solidarity. Its lyrics preach how millennials are misunderstood by their parents (“Well our parents say we’re dramatic / But they always ask for more / Than we do / So fuck you”) and that today’s youth are constantly barraged with plaguing anxiety and hardship (“Paralyzing anxiety is just a chore” and “We out here strugglin”). “90’s Kids” synchronizes a progressive piano beat and Shamir’s warm, bright voice. The way Shamir combines light (from the tone) with darkness (the lyrics) to create an idiosyncratic ode to today’s misunderstood youth is pure artistry. Revelations’ first single alludes to the overall “break free” message of the album and creates a catchy, “stick it to the man” tune in the process.

“Straight Boy” is an entirely different tone from “90’s Kids”, having a garage-rock sound that links Shamir back to his DIY roots. This track reflects what it means to be true to oneself. Through lyrics like “Don’t tell me you don’t see / The pool of contradiction / Don’t tell me you don’t see / The flood in your convictions,” Shamir explains that one of his revelations is that it’s better to be a good person than just to appear like one, which is a worthy message to get behind.

The other tracks on Revelations are hit-or-miss, though. The opening song, “Games”, speaks a powerful message, but is almost impossible to listen to due to the patronizing amount of screechy-whining that Shamir does throughout the song. “Cloudy”, on the other hand, delivers another powerful message without attacking listeners.

Revelations clocks in at a brief 30 minutes, but possesses such a depth that its impact will last far longer. Shamir constructed a colorful album based on past grievances while finding closure and producing a distinct musicality in the process. This music isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine. Revelations doesn’t beg for you to like it: it begs for your respect and appreciation, which it deserves. While some songs missed their mark, it’s clear that Shamir is still in an exploratory phase with his music, which leaves some room for leniency. Shamir is a rare, sensational artist who speaks the truth whether you like it or not. While it can be uncomfortable to hear what he preaches sometimes, it’s worth it.

Listen here:

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