Las Vegas artist Shamir Bailey releases first full length LP, Ratchet
After getting everyone’s interest in 2014 with the excellent Northtown EP and indie hit “On The Regular,” 20- year-old Shamir Bailey has released his first full length LP, Ratchet.
Similar to many musicians born in the information age, Shamir grew up with access to any musical style at his fingertips, and his music doesn’t fit neatly into any defined genre. On a given track, you can catch electro-funk organ stabs, disco beats, neatly sequenced bass lines reminiscent of Detroit techno and the overdriven, effect-drenched, screaming synth of ‘90s house (this is by no means a complete list). He definitely has a soft spot for the club music of past eras, not unlike the early Prince-obsessed Hot Chip he often sounds like.
Not to take away from the instrumentals-Shamir and his producers have done a fantastic job blending his influences together, and despite all the different sounds he uses, the album never feels like a collection of genre exercises. What really sets his music apart is his voice. Androgynous is the first term that comes to mind, but you can earn yourself some music theory cred and call it countertenor. As Shamir describes it, “It’s not masculine, it’s not feminine. It’s a happy medium.”
While his vocal register is a big part of the genre-less and genderless feel of the album, what he’s able to do with it is what lifts the music out of the crowd. Both between and within songs, his voice can go from beautifully controlled and subdued, gliding over scales effortlessly, to detached sing-talking, or belting out lines in a powerful falsetto. The vocal versatility he shows is what completes the stylistically slippery feel of the album.
Lyrically, the album is sort of all over the place. It works because of the variety of styles and influences used throughout. The writer is also 20, and that’s how 20-year-olds are. If you are/were 20 and not a little all over the place, you probably aren’t very interesting. Through 11 tracks you’ll hear swagger in “On The Regular,” ennui on “Vegas” and “Make a Scene,” or the meekness of “Demon” or “In For The Kill.”
The common thread through most of the album is Shamir’s relationship with his hometown, suburban North Las Vegas.
Urban Las Vegas is weird. It’s a big theme park for adults, and at any given time you can look around and most of the people around you won’t be there in a week. It’s not a cultural center (look up Vegas bands. Once you get past Shamir and Jenny Lewis, it gets real ugly). It’s hard to imagine what the suburbs are like.
Shamir gives us a glimpse into a pattern of the same parties with the same people and difficulty of being accepted and feeling good about yourself in suburban Nevada. The poppy melting pot musical style helps everything go down easily, and makes for a more versatile album experience than the bouncy party music would have you believe.
“You are mine” is about “one teenager dreaming about another, even though they’ll never be together.”December 16, 2015
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