By Will Sexton (@willshesleeps)
Sharing a whole new side of himself, Shamir is back with his 3rd album Revelations. Right from the start, you can tell the difference in direction with the style of his music. From the bright, eclectic electro-pop to the lo-fi and raw. It’s not been an easy journey for Shamir, being dropped from his record label and unfortunately dealing with some personal demons, which is shown through this more personal and intimate addition to his discography.
Instantly from listening to the first track, Games you can tell that Shamir was in a different place when he wrote this album, drawing a likeness to more underground lo-fi artists with the small instrumentation of the electric piano. Fast lyrics and wordplay have been a big feature of his older music, and while there is no difference in the quality of lyrics, there is in speed and density. The dissonance played throughout the track, maybe for artistic style, is unsettling and not entirely enjoyable, however it’s a memorable start nonetheless.
Revelations does get better, though, and feels like the most drawn back Shamir album yet. Lyrics on the song 90’s Kids might be relatable for a lot of people at this age, where adults ask so much of you and expect full co-operation and not much reciprocation. Musically the song is more spacious than the first two tracks, maybe coming from a different part of Shamir, where the song feels more confident than it does vulnerable, being a stand-up and ‘fuck you’ to the people he is referring to.
The smooth transition between the songs Cloudy and Float is very pleasant to the point of being unnoticeable. In direct relation to the song titles, both songs make you feel like you’re ‘floating’ with airy instrumentation and their very drawn-back style. The lyrics in Cloudy approach the concept of stress and stress killing you. Also touching upon loving everyone as equals: “Because when you die you end up having all the same problems,“ which is incredibly true. Float is both a confident punch and a vulnerable cry for help. Shamir doesn’t want to have to lose what he wants because of other people and doesn’t want to be “left behind” because of someone else’s beliefs. The “finish line” might be a metaphor for equality and let’s hope we aren’t far off of it.
Minimalism within Shamir’s music has always been quite a strong point, creating something catching that you can really enjoy but with half the instruments than your regular album. That’s not lost here at all, but it’s somehow a different type of minimalism. The messages in this album don’t need a massive layer of synth this time around and they don’t need fast lyrics. The songs in this album really embrace more of Shamir’s influences which are deep-rooted in Country and Rock.
The album as a whole doesn’t feel overly cohesive, regardless of the individual songs. Maybe in mirror image to how Shamir feels, being broken and thrown about by record companies and being centered upon by media for him being queer and black, neither of which should affect the standard or reception of music. However, the social pressure of such issues are reflected in this album and it’s nice to hear that, through the song Blooming he is “too strong to just lay down and die.” The album cover feels like it’s a message in itself. The closed eyes and mouth represent Shamir’s feeling he is stuck inside a stereotype and can’t be a human being. Straight Boy perfectly shows this, where Shamir shares vague experiences of having insecurities of other people taken out on him which is completely unfair.
Revelations starts oddly and kind of just… finishes. The messages shared and troubles expressed will resonate with listeners, especially big fans of Shamir, and it’s nice he is enjoying taking on the producer role as well as the singing and writing, but the album doesn’t feel entirely complete. People who were fans of Shamir’s debut Rachet will be slightly shocked with the change of pace and instrumentation, but it’s still an interesting listen. Revelations feels like a sudden outburst of feeling rather than a long thought, which is effective but not fully gripping.