What more do you want from Shamir? He’s still coming off the 2020 release of his acclaimed self-titled LP that cemented his legacy as a songwriting dynamo; he just dropped a 2021 release of a chapbook of essays which focus on his paintings; and he shepherded a 2021 collaboration between his Accidental Popstar Records imprint with the inimitable Macy Rodman out in the world… Now just 27, the polymathic Las Vegas native and current Philadelphia resident is releasing his 8th full-length album, Heterosexuality. His 2015 debut, Ratchet, focused on the prospect of youth; the following several records helped navigate difficulties with mental health. The new record is the first to confront head-on Shamir’s queerness explicitly in album form. Yet, instead of a pure confirmation of a certain gender politics, he chooses a radical refusal of any sort of categorization–at all. It’s a floating point of rebuff, erasing any ideological identification, further confirming Shamir as the everything-for-everyone antihero of the indie underground.
On the soaring “Cisgender,” Shamir almost howls in his upper register: “I’m not cisgender/ I’m not binary, trans/ I don’t wanna be a girl/ I don’t wanna be a man/ I’m just existing on this god forsaken land/ And you can take it or leave it or you can just stay back.” Everyone’s invited, but Shamir isn’t putting up with bullshit. “I think this album is me finally acknowledging my trauma. Everyone knows I’ve been through so much shit and I kind of just rammed through, without really acknowledging the actual trauma that I do feel on almost a daily basis.” Among that trauma is the return to rapping on the unrelenting and confrontational “Abomination,” his first high-profile return to the form since the massive success of “On The Regular.” Yet that almost playful introduction is nothing when put up against the social rebuke of “Abomination,” where Tracy Chapman gets a multidimensional shoutout amongst a nightmarish critique of capitalism–this is the world of Heterosexuality.
On the cover, Shamir appears in the horns and hooves of an almost Luciferian creature, an androgynous Baphomet, a “subhuman,” beautiful terror. Flashes of Nine Inch Nails break through the stereo field, as do moments of the earlier Death Grips records, early Bjork, Ministry, and even the Canadian artist Bif Naked. Yet Shamir still holds onto the stickiest hooks through all of that, somehow still verging into the world of The Haxan Cloak, The Weeknd or M83, continuing to expand the limits of his sound by sheer curiosity.
Shamir worked with a new producer, Hollow Comet, aka Isaac Eiger, a member of the band Strange Ranger, after Eiger reached out. “His sound was something that honestly I was dreaming up in my head,” Shamir says, who was a fan of Eiger’s band, “but couldn’t find someone who could do it, nor could I do it myself. When I finally heard his work, I just thought… what the fuck, I finally found it.” Sounding as futuristic as it does nostalgic, the new sound wraps heavily distorted barbs of guitars, synths, and drum machines in the angelic nuance of Shamir’s unmistakable voice. The whole thing came together in a matter of a few months. Shamir writes very fast, but became so motivated by Isaac’s production that it bled into a feedback loop of inspiration, where the writing and production interlocked into the embrace of the raw and the real, both in life and in sound.
“I think this is my best record. At the least, it’s my favorite,” Shamir says. In the perspective of pure artistry that Shamir embodies, that seals the record as a success.
AGENT: Jule Konrad