Philadelphia based musician Shamir is releasing his ninth album and debut for the legendary Kill Rock Stars label. Homo Anxietatem was recorded and produced by Hoost aka Justin Tailor (Rina Sawayama) in Hackney, London. After a run of critically acclaimed heavy rock and industrial-tinged records, the non-binary artist now transmutes his anxiety to alternately subdued and soaring alt-pop songs, as the Latin translation of the album’s title, “anxious man,” suggests.
By shifting workflow, gaze, and attitude, Shamir has created a sincerely familiar yet instantly outstanding album in Homo Anxietatem. Never has this stunning music sounded so effortless. That could owe to Shamir’s unshakeable work ethic. For a 28 year-old, Shamir’s amassed a huge amount of savvy, as well as a devoted following – appearing in series like Dear White People and Tuca & Bertie, publishing the book But I’m a Painter, creating his own record label Accidental Popstar Records, playing shows with Le Tigre, Courtney Barnet, Troye Sivan, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, collaborating with Rina Sawayama, Mac DeMarco and many more
Shamir’s art is a synthesis of the full spectrum of human emotion; sensual, furious, yearning, joyful and yet tethered together by a very distinct style. The one constant throughout these hundreds of songs is Shamir’s voice. On “Without You”, when Shamir howls, “While the desert’s getting covered in snowfall,” it is one of the most genuinely poetic moments put to song this decade. He’s always had a way of turning the mundane into the magical. On Homo Anxietatem, lines that could feel tossed off in the hands of a more careless songwriter become precious morsels in the hands of Shamir – he never takes himself too seriously. Yet nothing is taken for granted; there are moments of pure joy and plenty of surprises throughout.
However, as always, there’s sadness, darkness, and–in this case–an actual confrontation with the devil. “Not as sweet as I might seem,” Shamir confesses on the song “Crime”. “No interest in searching for meaning,” Shamir ends the appropriately titled “Calloused.”
And that meeting with the devil? Perhaps the biggest surprise is album closer, “The Devil Said the Blues is All I Know.” The title should give an idea of its sound: a single take of slide guitar and voice. As the song fades out, a celebratory hoot can be heard. Maybe it’s a celebration for a great take, or maybe simply that another album finished. Given Shamir’s breakneck working speed, it can be easy to overlook something in his oeuvre. Among a catalogue of standouts, this one shines as its own.