Album review: Shamir’s ‘Hope’ is a surprising new direction

Upon the release of lo-fi artists Shamir’s new album, Hope, last week, one thing was clear: he doesn’t care. Not about labels (in terms of music or gender) or even about if you like the album or not. He made this album for his own sanity.

It was a spur-of-the-moment release for Shamir, who recorded the entire album in one weekend, by himself, on a four-track recorder. And honestly, he makes that hard to forget. It starts with five seconds of feedback, and the raw, crude format of the entire album sticks out like a sore thumb.

Fans of Shamir’s earlier work may find themselves disappointed with the 10 tracks on Hope. The album is a sharp departure from his biggest hit, On the Regular. Instead of shiny beats and fun cowbells, on this album Shamir opted for harsh chords and noisy feedback. Hope leans into the rough aesthetics of lo-fi music.

Despite the difference in packaging, strong vocals remain a constant in Shamir’s work — and a strong point of HopeHis powerful voice is wonderful and evocative, as always. Lots of vocals in lo-fi and DIY music tend to fade into the layers of noise; in Hope, Shamir always cuts through.

The album’s other saving grace is its sincerity. Hope is a cathartic purge of croons and chords. He made the album from a low place, when he was seriously considering quitting music. Given some time, the album may not hold up — but I still value its release.

It may be rougher and more coarse for those who prefer pop to lo-fi music, but it’s still pure, unadulterated Shamir. With Hope, Shamir decided to serve his own needs and not care about what listeners, or labels, would want. It was self-indulgent; it was an act of artistic self-care that Shamir decided to share for free with his listeners. But isn’t that the emotional processing that is at the center of all good music?

The most important music is raw, powerful and evocative. Hope is all three.

Hope isn’t as lively and engaging as Ratchet, but the work still stands-up as a solid lo-fi album.

Hope gets a 7 out of 10.

Contact CUI Staff writer Shruti Kaul at Shruti.Kaul@colorado.edu.

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