Shamir’s Ratchet was one of the best releases of 2015, a sophisticated disco-house pop album anchored by Shamir Bailey’s squeaky falsetto.
While that album was produced by Nick Sylvester, Shamir was keen to show that he had other influences, like the country acoustic pop demo he shared around that time.
Shamir it seems has been struggling with music as a career of late and was thinking of quitting completely. Instead, he has released an album of demo-quality indie-rock music with the following note.
“I was gonna quit music this weekend. From day 1 it was clear I was an accidental pop star. I loved the idea of it, I mean who doesn’t? Still the wear of staying polished with how I’m presented and how my music was presented took a huge toll on me mentally. I started to hate music, the thing I loved the most! When I would listen to immaculate recordings with my friends their praise over the quality of the art as opposed to the art itself made me feel really sad for music as a medium in general. My music only feels exciting for me if it’s in the moment, and thats what this album is. I made this album this past weekend stuck in my room with just a 4 track feeling hopeless about my love for music. I’m not gonna lie, this album is hard to listen to, but it was even harder for me to share. I love pop music, I love outsider music, and I love lo-fi music, this is my way of combining all 3. Anyway, I played, wrote, produced, and mixed everything and big thanks to Kieran Ferris for Mastering an album with an hours notice! It’s free! Enjoy! Love Y’all! Still more 2 come!!!!!!!”
Having listened to the album, I empathise with Shamir. He clearly is at at crossroads and made this as a reaction to all the above. This free release isn’t a great listen by any stretch, but hopefully Shamir got what he needed out of it. Selfishly, I hope he continues making disco bangers but that feels unlikely.
Roisin Murphy’s third album is a sophisticated and layered album that furthers the career of an outlier and a creative artist, making accessible but avant-garde music that draws from pop, dance, disco and jazz.
From the elongated elegance of ‘Exploitation’ to the spooked ‘Gone Fishing’ to the warped ballad of ‘Unputdownable’ to the poppy bass-slung groove of ‘Evil Eyes’, Murphy creates duality throughout: intimate and anamorphic, detailed yet sparse, Glamourous yet grubby, Loungey yet dancy. Murphy remains the magnet at the centre of Hairless Toys as she has been throughout her career. Where-ever she goes, I will follow.
This is what 21st Century pop music is supposed to sound like.
Claire Boucher’s followup to 2012’s breakthrough Grimes album Visions is wildly different. Art Angels is the result of three years of growth, touring, a decision to scrap a previous album and an hardening of artistic resolve. Grimes’ has often talked about her love of pop music and on Art Angels she’s made her own version of it with sugar-rushing rhythms, bubble-pop melodies and bright instrumentation. The album feels like it has its own internal logic and palette and inherent in its DNA, is Grimes’ own split personalities, adept at pairing up for a screaming match with Korean rapper Aristophanes on ‘Scream’, delivering clattering guitar pop on ‘Flesh Without Blood’, roping in Janelle Monae for a EDM-style banger and my personal favourite ‘World Princess Part II’, an electro pop crescendo. Boucher continues to write her own story.
The Dublin electro band have made an album of joyous bangers.
For their second full-length, Le Galaxie enlisted the help of producer Erik Brouchek to solidify what most Irish music-loving people know from seeing the band live, that Le Galaxie are the best band for delivering gigantic song-led bangers built on dance music dynamism with live instruments.
Le Club feels like a victory lap, the band’s retro neon-electro having found new sinewy rhythms and strident sounds. Songs like ‘Put The Chain On’, ‘Streetheart’, ‘Le Club’, ‘Lucy Is Here’ and “Carmen’ already feel like modern Irish classics, the soundtrack to many a great festival night and gig. The new version of the Le Galaxie essential, the uplifting ‘Love System’ adds a sax-solo for extra celebration. A trip to Le Club is always fun.
Lorely Rodriguez’s personal yet brisk electronic pop debut.
With the graduation to a self-produced debut album, Lorely Rodriguez also makes the leap from pleasing hazy synth pop to a gilded form of dance pop. Rodriguez’s lyrics address what it’s like to be a young woman in 2015.
Rarely does a personal album brim with so much danceable briskness. Me makes use of of pleasing discombobulating rhythmic pop sequences, buzzing synths, bouncing bass, drum machine stabs and an clearly elevated confidence. No longer covered in gauze, Empress Of’s talent is greater than was initially suggested.
The Dublin band have made the highly-strung album of the year.
There weren’t more uncompromising sonic albums made in 2015 than this one and while it took its toll on its creators, their efforts have not gone unappreciated.
Holding Hands With Jamie is a bare psychosis, the breakdown of Dara Kiely soundtracked by dissonant, piercing and pulsing noise. Kiely spends howling into the pressurised turbulent wall of noise, fending off life expectations and minutiae.
The band match his intensity spectacularly with guitars that whirr and buzz like nasty synthesizers, drums that engulf the room in a live fashion and low-end that wipes the floor and shits on it afterward for good measure. The harshness of it all is a suitably foil for the discombobulating frame of mind that Kiely displays throughout. It sounds like post-punk, it sounds like garage-rock, it sounds like no-wave, it sounds like dirty bleedin’ techno.
The coiled wrestle between confrontation and escapism, both in the music and in the lyrics, is what makes Holding Hands With Jamie such an uncomfortable yet singularly brilliant album. That it uses the familiar language of rock music to do so makes it one of the albums of the year.
The Body & Soul lineup for the sold out Electric Picnic has been announced and features:
LA Priest, Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror), Hundred Waters, Shamir, Natalie Prass, Young Wonder, Donal Dineen, Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Mother, Clu, Bitch Falcon and more. Here are the additions by stage:
Body&Soul Main Stage
LA Priest – Hundred Waters – Shamir – Natalie Prass – Ho99o9 – Tanya Tagaq – Vaudou Game – Puts Marie – Bleeding Heart Pigeons – Young Wonder – Everything Shook – Formidable Veg Sound System – Rosie Carney – CLU – Hayes & Leslie – The Hard Ground – Plutonic Dust – GIRO – Buffalo Woman – Daithi – My Tribe Your Tribe – Simi Crowns – Bitch Falcon – New Valley Wolves – Silences – Dear Desert – Iron Mountain – Shookrah – Meltybrains? – I’m Your Vinyl – Hare Squead – Embrz
Mother DJs – The Pale – Donal Dineen – DJ Mek – Aindrias De Staic & the Latchikos – DJ Neil Flynn – Wigwam DJs – The Rolling Tav Revue – Big Jelly – My Fellow Sponges – 5th Element – Subplots – Aoife Underwater – The Amazing Apples – PTHM – The Witch Trials – Joe Fury & the Hayride – Mutefish – Noelie McDonnell & Band – The Louisiana 6 – Anti-One – Mongrel State – Staring At Lakes – Frankenstein Bolts – Clandestinos – JUPE – Stomptown Brass – Berrill Family – Daire Kelly – The Whileaways – Formidable Beat Boxer – Mulljoy
[DJs in the tree include -Kid Cam-DJ Claire K-Evil Presidente-Cheebah-Mr Green]
Shamir Bailey opens his debut album with a song about his hometown in North Las Vegas (his debut EP was called Northtown) The song is worth highlighting because in an age where geographical nuance has given way to universal lyrics, it’s nice to hear a singer write a song about what they know and Vegas “where sin is alright, especially at night”: is a perfect place for a party. Dig deeper and Shamir looks beneath the sheen – “but if you’re living in the city, are you already in hell?”
The city’s reputation for hedonistic weekenders plays into the hands of Ratchet, a brashy album about good times, bad times and identity set to live beat-driven electro disco/house with pitched down vocals to contrast Shamir’s breezy androgynous voice which gives Ratchet a unique teenage energy.
Musically, the album is for dancing – analogue synths blare like sirens, cowbells ride a 4/4 beat, saxophone creeps and classic dance music never feels far away. It’s guided by the production of Nick Sylvester who it’s fair to say helped mould Shamir from an acoustic country pop singer into something more unique on early tracks like ‘If It Wasn’t True’.
Shamir brags with a wink about himself on the jokey but super fun ‘On The Regular’, he wipes the relationship slate clean on ‘Call It Off’, he struts around hot messes, he encourages you to ‘Make A Scene (“So let’s puke our guts and start some fights / it’s side effects of teen idleness so adulthood is one big mess”), he mines that country pop past on ‘Demon’, and generally wonders where teens turned adults go next.
By the time the stirring slow ballad ‘Darker’ rolls around, Ratchet feels less like an infatuation but the start of someone great. This Vegas kid is more than surface.
20,000 people absconded to the pleasing seaside town of Brighton, less than an hour from London this past weekend for the 10th year of The Great Escape Festival, the new music weekender where industry and the public alike are drawn to sets from 400 bands over three days,
Brighton is a perfect-sized town for a new music festival and its clientele who lap up the artisan coffee shops, pubs, markets and restaurants of the area in between the sounds. With so many bands playing, there were naturally lots of music missed, whether it was due to schedule clashes or queues (lots of queues, the only downer of small venues hosting budding acts). Not listed below but highlights for many I talked to from the weekend were the Death Grips-style metallic aggression of Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror), the big voice of Seinabo Sey, the little voice of Lapsley, the young developing voice of Aurora, the lyrically set George The Poet, the line-down-the-stairs and around the-block forming All Tvvins and an afternoon rave with old favourites Le Galaxie.
Here were my top 10 sets witnessed at the festival.
“Hi hi howdy howdy hi hi / while everyone is minus you can call me multiply”.
At the XL Recordings showcase, following sets from Liverpool youngster Lapsley and the French Cuban twins Ibeyi, Shamir Bailey, the 20 year old Las Vegas singer keeps the youthful energy going with a voice that is as androgynous as it is star-filled. With a small but thumping full-band providing the live versions of his house and disco percussive debut album Ratchet, Shamir shines. With a speaking and singing voice as high as helium, the move to pitch down his backing vocalist’s lines to a deep growl is a shrewd one, providing contrast to his airy voice. It’s not all new disco/house bangers as there’s room for the slow moving ‘Darker’ with Shamir loosening his dreads and mingling in the crowd.
The formidable live reputation of Dubliners Girl Band meant they arrived to play The Great Escape in two contrasting venues – one, the Corn Exchange a 1000+ capacity venue and the other, Bleach a basement club. Both venues had lines down the block. I saw the former where the band’s industrial spoken screech rock music had no problem filling the venue and impressing first-timers. A set without ‘De Bom Bom’ and ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?’ was brave but it was short. For Girl Band to really slay their debut, they need two or three more marquee tracks to rival the almighty juggernaut of ‘Lawman’.
If escapist poptimist punk music can capture the UK zeitgeist, Slaves might be the band to do in in a second-time Tory government landscape. Slaves are a band who apply the same economy of scale to their music as Royal Blood. There’s two of them and they look like they wandered on stage from the set of This Is England close-shaved and making a pounding almighty racket.
There’s not room for politics though, Slaves have their hearts set on festivals and are occupied by silly things – sasquatches, a mantaray (at one point, there’s a guy on stage dressed as one) and asking the crowd what their favourite biscuit is. It’s ‘Cheer Up London’ that marks them out – a cheeky shouty song about dreary city commuters. It might be entertaining enough to get them on the upper echelons of the festivals for a summer. The rest remains to be seen.
No Now, the debut album from Clarence Clarity is a schizophrenic all-cards-in genre shuffle with a warped electronic music at its core. Live, it’s thankfully not one guy on a laptop as the recorded versions are surpassed with multi-channel sensory overload. In the low-hanging basement of Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, the band playing these songs sound more like the psychedelic Tame Impala carving up Clarence’s (or whatever his name is) own compositions.
Jack Garratt is so talented you’d nearly be worried for his future career. The guy has a soulful voice that he can control with ease. He plays a mean bluesy guitar riff. He plays drum machines with the poise of Whiplash’s J.K Simmons snapping his band into shape and he does it all at once. At times during his engaging pin-drop performance at the VEVO party at Wagner Hall, Garratt was doing too much of the above at once, to the point to where it was a bit more showboat than showcase.
Still, when he doesn’t overcrowd his productions like on ‘The Love You’re Given’ and ‘Chemical’, he wields a powerful sound that moves the crowd in more ways than one.
It’s May which means that the number of albums that start to get released go beyond what one person can capably handle (or write about) so as way as recommendation, here are five albums released this week or next I recommend you listen to:
For her first album in eight years, Ms. Murphy doesn’t quite return to dancefloor bangers a la Overpowered. Instead, it’s an avant-garde update that falls somewhere between her two sides – the disco diva and the Matthew Herbert-collaborating experimentalist. Murphy’s nuance and skill around melody keeps the sometimes meandering album, always pleasing.
It’s hard to believe Birth is Rachel Koeman and Ian Ring’s debut album such is are the high-quality productions they’ve made together over the last few years. In album format, both shine with Koeman increasingly becoming a lead singer and Ring, who I’ve said before is one of the most talented young producers in Ireland, pulls out an evocative bag of sounds that takes in sparkling synths, big bass, twisted vocal samples and arrangements that grow tall like canyons. Birth suggests these pair are carving their own niche into the electronic landscape.
Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell’s have been creating IDM or great deep electronic textured music you can sometimes dance to since before EDM was a twinkle. For their new album on R&S Records, the pair mine techno, house and industrial music that shakes and shudders with a healthy exploration. Some of it even sounds like early AFX.
Energetic pint-sized Vegas singer Shamir has dropped the second single from his upcoming album Ratchet on XL coming in May. ‘Call It Off’ debuts with a great puppet video for the eminently danceable electro-pop single about giving someone the heave-ho.
“It’s the sound of the Berlin Wall falling down. It’s the sound of hashtag winning.” And so, Adebisi Shank returns with more bonkers frazzled epic electro rock that sounds like a particularly jaunty parade march in the year 3032. Their third album This Is The Third Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank is out August 12th on Sargent House.
2. Shamir – ‘Sometimes a Man’
From the Vegas 19 year-old’s excellent debut EP, Northtown out now on Godmode. A ruff-housing disco shaker.
From Daithí’s new album, In Flight, an album that deserves to do really well in Ireland on radio. Surely, the next single featuring Danny from The Coronas will do it? As it is, this is superior club pop on anyone’s terms.
Dear Desert are a brand new Irish band, based in Dublin consisting of Brendan Millar (Futures Apart), Richie Fenton and James O’Donnell (Hush War Cry). Judging by their debut track, the ‘Give It Up’, this is a trio steeped in heart-on-sleeve ’80s pop.
8. Azoto – ‘San Salvador’
As heard on White Collar Boy’s World Cup-themed mix to promote their new club nigiht in the Grand Social this Saturday,
‘If It Wasn’t True’ from 19 year-old “musician, comedian, singer, rapper, twerker, chef, writer, filmmaker, tumblr, skinny fat ass” Shamir is one of my favourite songs of the year so far, a DFA disco style number.
News came this week that Shamir’s debut EP is coming on June 11th. It’s called Northtown and will be released on Godmode on vinyl, digital and cassette. New track ‘I Know It’s A Good Thing’ is taken from that EP and takes a different tack, a piano-soul shaker with Shamir’s falsetto running things.
Simply one of the best things I’ve heard in ages. The sound of DFA disco house filtered through a 19 year-old Las Vegas kid Shamir Bailey. Playful, danceable and both modern and vintage at the same time.
First single, from her fourth album, Architect out on April 11th finds Wallis Bird showing signs of sonic progression without losing her core characteristics. The song has a fervent acoustically-rendered rhythmic section that make it sound taut and controlled like a Simian Mobile Disco track. This is definitely a song that could look good on the dancefloor.
‘If It Wasn’t True’ by Shamir is one of those nu-disco house tracks that sounds like it was made to be released on DFA Records. It’s one step away from The Juan Maclean or Shit Robot. Shamir Bailey is a 19-year-old Las Vegas “musician, comedian, singer, rapper, twerker, chef, writer, filmmaker, tumblr, skinny fat ass” whose youthful singing takes that template and puts some expressive exuberance on it, resulting in a track with Nick Sylvester (drum machines, synths, electric keyboards) that is playful, danceable and both modern and vintage at the same time.
‘If It Wasn’t True’ is released on GODMODE somewhere backed with ‘I’ll Never Be Able To Love’ also heard below.