Published May 15, 2015Shamir Bailey is as unique an artist as we get in 2015, a gender-rejecting 20-year-old with a shockingly high register who grew up across the street from a pig farm in North Las Vegas writing country music, but now makes bubbly disco-house that sounds like a custom DFA job.
After being discovered in 2013 by Nick Sylvester, a former music scribe-turned-music producer and label boss, Shamir has risen at the speed of a rocket, thanks to last year's rapturously-received debut EP, Northtown, and its lead track, "If It Wasn't True."
Ratchet is a confident first album, demonstrating an extraordinary talent for mixing bangers with ballads. Last year's hit "On The Regular" is an irresistible anthem full of rapped sass, and the advisory "Call It Off" sounds like it came from the unused library of James Murphy. The cheeky credos are fun, but Shamir turns around and looks inward on the arpeggiating softie "Demon," on which he confronts his anxieties, and bares his soul on the torch song "Darker."
Although he plods midway through with joints like "Hot Mess" and "Youth," which could easily be cut, Ratchet is an exciting first look at an artist in development. Shamir has the latitude and diversity to do just about anything he fancies; before Sylvester came along, he sang in a choir, tried his hand at country and flirted with indie rock and punk. One gets the sense that Ratchet is just the beginning of a career that could go in any direction Shamir wanted. (XL)