Shamir: “Hope” Album Review

Written By: Ethan Griggs

My Music:

Shamir had been bubbling just under the surface at the time of the release of his debut full length for XL Recordings, Ratchet. One would think the wave of success from that album would motivate the artist to greater heights, but it had the opposite affect on the artist that is Shamir. “I really, really, really tried to work with the music machine and industry machine, but I think it was in the cards for me not to. I think everyone was shocked—only my close friends knew—when they saw I was dropped from XL. This record is why, because this wouldn’t have come out if I was still signed, right now, and I’d probably be super fucking miserable,” he told the Guardian.

The new record he speaks of is Hope, and it was recorded just this past weekend in the artist’s bedroom – while the rest of the world was fretting over the new Kendrick Lamar album – far away from the conniving opinions of industry executives and wannabe-know-it-alls. The album contains the unique brand of indie rock we know and love from Shamir, but this time he’s doing it on his own terms – making music for himself, just like the rest of us do.

Sonically, Hope couldn’t be more different than Ratchet. The polished, pounding production on the former record is done away with in exchange for the most basic of bedroom studio randomness. Recorded all by Shamir in his bedroom to a four track recorder, the album is basically an effort in DIY minimalism. This doesn’t necessarily work as a benefactor for Shamir; there’s a ton of amp hiss on the guitar-oriented tracks,  and the drums sound a bit faint or empty. While the work is decidedly lo-fi, there’s still a fine line to be drawn between lo-fi and no-fi. The sound is squished, and doesn’t have a lot of headroom to it. The production of the record, frankly, feels rushed.

This issue only slightly takes away from the overall work, though. Hope contains some of Shamir’s most interesting songwriting. He expresses his current predicament through honest emotion on the standout track “What Else”, where he grapples with his current distaste for his industry: “But what am I to do/I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and can’t pull through/I know if I follow my pride/Rock bottom as a new start/While taking shots in the dark”. Through his eerie voice, sounding like the actual ghost of Prince hovering as your halo, Shamir is desperately trying to fix what’s broken.

The album’s title track is also a desperate plea for artistic salvation: “And I hope, I hope, I hope for me and you again/And we try and try until we impose our prayers”. In an industry that seems to be cartwheeling itself into a deeper hole with each passing month. Shamir has finally come to terms with the fact that he may never be a famous pop-star the way XL Recordings viewed him as, but he is content with making the music that he wants to hear – which is really all any artist can hope for these days.