You Should Know: Shamir’s Ratchet

Shamir – Ratchet
Released: May 19, 2015
Rating: 85/100
Unabashedly confident and shamelessly entertaining, Shamir is a true son of Vegas. Raised in the northern suburbs of Sin City, Shamir Bailey exudes cosmic star power on his fabulous debut album Ratchet. Part Prince, part LCD Soundsystem, his saccharine blend of indie electronica, R&B, and disco is uniquely balanced between the past and the future. You’ve been warned: Shamir’s moment approaches.
In the past two years, Shamir has gone from retail employee/bedroom recording artist to rising indie star. After releasing his Northtown EP last year, he signed to XL Records to release his proper debut Ratchet. With an androgynous vocal style and a nuanced feel for synthesizer wizardry, Shamir’s sound is crisp and effortlessly compelling.
At first glance, Ratchet seems like a party record. It’s energetic and danceable, but Shamir imbues his music with a sinister playfulness. “Demon” is a classic love story/fall-from-grace hybrid that pairs one of the album’s most sweetly innocent sounding vocal melodies with the some decidedly grim lyrics.
“If I’m a demon, baby
You’re the beast that made me
Falling from grace
We’re falling oh so gracefully”
The shimmering disco of “In For The Kill” is bright on the surface but dark and desperate underneath, alludng a struggle and surrender to “pain and madness”. Sure, it’s heavy stuff for a disco-pop track, but this depth sets Shamir apart from his more marketable contemporaries. In a landscape where pop stars often sound devoid of authentic personality, Shamir’s character shines in crystalline focus
 
Ratchet sounds intentionally analogous to Shamir’s hometown of Las Vegas. Ideally consumed at night, Ratchet captures both the glorious neon-lit pageantry as well as the seedy desolation of America’s playground. “Darker” approaches this dichotomy with gorgeous orchestral atmospherics and Shamir’s soaring vocal performance in the context of an existential battle against cynicism.
Watch an acoustic performance of “In For The Kill” and “Demon” on La Blogothèque’s Take Away Show
Though Shamir’s rise hinges on his irresistible singles “On The Regular and “Call It Off”, they fail to comprehensively capture the skill of this young songwriter. At the end of Ratchet, there is a single bonus track. I usually disregard ‘Bonus Tracks’ as substandard misfits but “KC” is a beautiful acoustic guitar ballad that helps define Shamir as a three-dimensional artist. I understand why it is included only as a ‘bonus track’ as it does veer pretty far of course from the rest of Ratchet but if you listen to this album, please make sure you give “KC” a chance.
Ratchet is electric. Slightly unpolished and entirely unapologetic, it’s everything I love about debut albums. Shamir’s vibrant, genre-bending display of talent and character that is sure to impress a wide range of listeners. Artists have only the one chance to make a first impression and Shamir has absolutely made the most of his. Ratchet is as fresh and as satisfying as debut albums get and I can’t wait to see what Shamir does next.
Top Tracks: “In For The Kill”, “On The Regular”, “Demon”
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