“Shamir is Shamir and remains Shamir through and through, no matter what the universe puts him through,” reads Shamir Bailey‘s Bandcamp. Although seemingly a truism, the statement reflects Bailey‘s self-assured approach to audacious songwriting in the face of diminishing praise. Upon the heels of 2015’s ‘Ratchet’, critics heralded as indie-pop’s newest darling. Pitchfork named the debut album “Best New Music” while numerous listeners salivated over Bailey‘s potential. Then, contemplating an early retirement from music, Bailey surprise-released 2017’s ‘Hope’, an album which blended lo-fi, outsider, and pop music and marked a stark departure from the infectious dance vibes found throughout ‘Ratchet’. While listeners and critics alike may lament his “gradual downfall,” such a pessimistic reception overlooks the following: Shamir is flirting with the avant-garde.
Collectively, taste-makers discount black/PoC and LGBTQ+ artists (while simultaneously elevating white musicians who appropriate these groups) when defining the avant-garde. In this context of ongoing erasure, ‘Ratchet’ assumes a poignantly subversive quality. Whereas Bailey‘s glimmering, “alternative R&B” productions earned lavish praise, his recent foray into lo-fi rock, enchanted country, and even sludgy metal — genres inundated by straight white male voices — has largely been panned. Despite this generally misguided, arguably biased resistance, Bailey resolves to occupy these spaces as ‘Resolution’ embodies a critical step in his exhilarating metamorphosis.
Possibly excepting 2014’s ‘Northtown’ EP, ‘Resolution’ offers the only “face-to-face” encounter between listener and artist. While the album covers for ‘Ratchet,’ ‘Hope’, and ‘Revelations’ each obscure Bailey’s gaze and mouth to a certain extent, with ‘Revelations’ digitally effacing these features, this album features a (presumably) young Bailey directly confronting audiences. This aesthetic choice suggests that Bailey no longer feels restrained by external factors; rather than metaphorical silence, the artist exudes muted confidence throughout this release.
’10/11′ opens with a distorted, metallic riff that one could mistake for Norwegian black metal act Dimmu Borgir before incorporating a delicious rhythm section and sandy horns to undeniable, albeit initially off-putting, success. Elsewhere, ‘The Things You Loved’ evokes Bombadil‘s ‘When We Are Both Cats’ while album-closer ‘Larry Clark’ eerily recall’s elvis depressedly‘s ‘pepsi/coke suicide’. Lesser artists would be remiss to attempt comparable stylistic acrobats, and yet, Shamir sticks the proverbial landing. More green tea than caffè mocha, Bailey‘s vocals are still an acquired taste; however, they — like ‘Resolution’ overall — undoubtedly grow upon the listener, nearly reducing them to a teary puddle as Bailey addresses police brutality on album-opener ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and difficulties associated with mental health on ‘Sanity’, ‘Panic’, and ‘Dead Inside’. The record’s emotional and artistic climax, however, occur on the tender-hearted ‘Glass’. While the song’s comparison to “Wheatus trying to be Nirvana” oozes with derision, the description further reinforces the notion that Shamir is unapologetically carving out a niche within predominantly white male spaces. The approach is fascinating, if not moderately rewarding.
[contentblock id=141 img=adsense.png]
‘Resolution’ offers potential. While some will predictably bemoan the superficial regression from dance pop greatness to supposed lo-fi mediocrity, ‘Resolution’ warrants considerable attention and reevaluation. Rather than indulging reflexive disappointment born from unwieldy expectations, perhaps audiences and critics ought to approach this album and musician without preconceptions. Although the album’s merits seem neither readily apparent nor overwhelmingly valuable to some, ‘Resolution’ feels more significant than its detractors will allow.
The albums full track listing is…
01. I Can’t Breathe
04. Dead Inside
05. The Things You Loved
08. Larry Clark
‘Resolution’ is now available for streaming via Bandcamp