Shamir returns to the spotlight with nostalgic, 90s-influenced alternative pop | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Shamir returns to the spotlight with nostalgic, 90s-influenced alternative pop 

click to enlarge Shamir


Courtesy the Artist

Shamir spent the first months of quarantine directing the video for “On My Own,” the first single from their new self-titled album, entirely within their Philadelphia home. Using wardrobe and hairstyle changes, the mononymous singer and multi-instrumentalist depicts themselves in various personas: a childlike figure surrounded by stuffed animals, a confident rocker swinging her hips behind a buttercup-yellow guitar. It’s a fitting visual for lyrics about finding solace in solitude as well as a reminder that, as an independent artist, he’s self-directing his career more than ever. The genre-shifting singer and Accidental Popstar label head (who once tweeted “although im non binary, i go by all 3 pronouns”) got his start in music as a precocious teenager crafting snappy synth-pop that showcased his distinctive countertenor singing voice. After Shamir went through a succession of labels and managers, independence gave him the flexibility to release albums on his terms; 2019’s Be the Yee, Here Comes the Haw experiments with country music, while March’s surprise release Cataclysm shrouds Shamir’s poetic lyrics in a lo-fi shoegaze miasma. The new self-titled album returns to the digestible pop of Shamir’s early career, trading synths and shimmer for rhythmic guitars, well-structured songs, and straightforward vocals. Kyle Pulley, a producer who’s worked with indie bands such as Hop Along, Diet Cig, and Adult Mom, helped craft a deliberately approachable sound. With its uncharacteristically optimistic hook, “Let’s fuck around inside each other’s heads,” the nostalgic yet timeless “Pretty When I’m Sad” would sound equally at home in the background of a quirky 90s cult film or a Gen-Z romantic comedy. Even “Paranoia,” which details a downward mental health spiral dulled by mild substance abuse, strikes a faux-cheerful tone on the surface. Shamir is once again ready for the mainstream, at a time when the mainstream needs queer Black pop stars—accidental or not—more than ever.   v

Get our free weekly Early Warnings newsletter 💌

It’s Chicago’s essential months-ahead music calendar straight to your inbox.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Popular Stories