REVIEW ROUND-UP: Shamir, Creak, Naked Lungs

Artwork for Shamir’s ‘Homo Anxietatem’


Homo Anxietatem

If you only remember Shamir from his brief crossover flitter in 2015, this might ring as very unexpected. That song was On The Regular, a piece of streamlined, pulsating hip-house held firm by an androgynous vocal that, honestly, would’ve fit seamlessly with where a lot of queer music is today. Across the eight other albums he’s had since, though, Shamir has developed quite the chameleonic portfolio, in output spanning indie, punk, pop and even flirtations with metal at times. In other words, that starting block is rather definitively the exception, not the norm, particularly when album number nine Homo Anxietatem is concerned as a no-strings-attached indie-rock release.

What is surprising, though, is how listenable and accessible this actually is. At no point does Shamir come across like some gestalt artiste, parading unwieldy fusions of his many musical masks. Sure, there are some deviations, but generally, Homo Anxietatem is more of an easy hit than a big, risky swing. But it’s not complacent either, when there’s such a solid melodic kernel to the Killers-meets-Strokes sweep of Our Song, or the various sways and shuffles in place on Oversized Sweater or Without You. It’s all exceptionally well produced too, with how solid the bass and guitar are across the board, and how much of a wide berth it gives to indie’s not-uncommon stagnation and stiffness. This all feels very fluid and natural, as do the shifts that play with many of the same assets, like the brighter pop-rock acoustics and scratching of The Beginning, or the barely-held-together country-blues of The Devil Said The Blues Is All I Know.

If there’s anything potentially contentious to be found, it’d likely be Shamir himself, to very little surprise. He’s got a really high register that’s more just a constant falsetto these days, fine at that level but scrapes down into an uncomfortable screech on Our Song or Crime when trying to climb even further. He’s got a terrific liquidity and technical acumen that’s fully yanked away there, too; it’s more Miss Piggy than Prince, as far as listenability goes. Thankfully they’re very sporadic moments, and although there’s a reedy quality overall that never quite shakes, Shamir as a performer brings a lot of character and personality to the table. He’s a particularly vulnerable persona, as a lot of anxieties and inner unease jostle forth, amid a fair spread of quotable lines that with some nice pertinence. Without You especially is a really great one, where Shamir finds himself post-relationship as the world boils and decays around him, where neither the physical nor metaphorical resonance is lost.

It’s not testing any boundaries, but Homo Anxietatem displays an ease at falling into place that works very much in its favour. Particularly for an artist like Shamir for whom predictable unpredictability is the norm, it’s more a process of acknowledging and isolating the strings on his bow that finds this in a very beneficial place. Mostly, it shows a skill for drawing musical boundaries that can be incredibly underrated when artists want to pile in every bit of musical knowledge or impulse into a single piece. A ‘less-is-more’ mentality is what pushes Shamir to unquestionably stable ground, and Homo Anxietatem wears that remarkably well. Even if it’s not a tremendous feat, that’s a hard accolade to take away.

For fans of: The Strokes, boygenius, Beabadoobee

‘Homo Anxietatem’ by Shamir is released on 18th August on Kill Rock Stars.

Artwork for Creak’s ‘Depth Perception’


Depth Perception

This is the sort of album you just know will leave a certain subset of metal fans salivating after just a few seconds of playtime. Just look at the makeup of Creak’s DNA—hardcore and more industrial nu-metal at its core, augmented with Code Orange-esque metalcore and strains of Dillinger worship. That’s evidently tapping into a specific audience, the sort for whom modern heavy music is at its most exciting when cranking up the cold, surgical edges to the max. And that’s Depth Perception in a nutshell, a debut that ties up checking those boxes with a clearly realised sense of urgency and individuality, and runs for miles with it.

And yeah, it goes without saying that this is pretty intense stuff. A good bit of the time, it’s what you’d imagine Arkham Asylum sounds like—dangerous and discordant, with the fear of the next cleaving blow or scalpel nick always in mind. That’s particularly true towards the beginning when Creak really find their footing; Crossroads is a frenzy of slicing guitars, clattering drums and thundering bass, followed by the stabs and shrieks embedded throughout Hare In The Woods. It’s nu-metal at its most white-knuckle extreme, taking the cues so expertly crafted by Graphic Nature this year and trying to rewire them into something even more ferocious. In other words, that Code Orange side of themselves looms over Creak rather heavily. Though that’s not a bad thing at all when they’re applying it as they are, making use of sonic shifts and dynamics to amplify the bleakness of Doomed, or putting Left To Heaven as a mid-album passage of respite that finds itself haunted by clanking percussion and warps of production.

It’s pretty harrowing at the best of times, as Creak end up caught in the spiral of their own darkness. Frontman Jack Dunn wrenches up anguish and the rawest form of release inspired by his mother’s journey with cancer, accompanied by a lyrical set drenched in imagery of isolation and degradation. Coupled with a vocal tone clad in knifelike steel, the intensity of Depth Perception is always its main concern. And that can be what tips it into a fairly difficult listen at times, when immolation this pronounced is always at the forefront and never lets up in its intent. That’s undoubtedly the point though, and for those for whom this will strike a chord with most, that’ll likely be one of its primary selling points, if anything.

And besides, there’s no obscuring how visceral Creak are is where so much of the thrill come from. They’re barely hanging on by the hinges, and embracing that for all it’s worth in true bloody-minded fashion. From it, they’ve birthed something at the intersection of hardcore and nu-metal that rarely goes this far, but they’re doing everything they can to make it saw and serrate. Depth Perception is barely ever an easy or comfortable listen, so they seem to be doing a pretty good job at that.

For fans of: Code Orange, Graphic Nature, The Dillinger Escape Plan

‘Depth Perception’ by Creak is released on 18th August on Prosthetic Records.

Artwork for Naked Lungs’ ‘Doomscroll’

Naked Lungs


No, that is not, in fact, a new Rotting Christ album cover, though it’s a handy way for Naked Lungs to differentiate themselves all the same. Otherwise, their general profile is one not in the slightest unfamiliar—an Irish post-punk / noise-rock band reliant on metric tonnes of jaded snark to air their grievances about the world crumbling around them. You’ve even got Gilla Band’s Daniel Fox on recording and mixing, just to hammer it all home.

Luckily, Naked Lungs seem to know what they’re doing to stay ahead of the curve, and avoid simply repeating the exact same steps as everyone else. The pieces might align, but the execution is definitely more intense, as it lurches under its own weight and discord and succumbs to the mud and miasma of darkness around it. In other words, Doomscroll is the polar opposite of the glibness its name suggests. Any bleakness is wrenched out and blown up to end up fully obtrusive and oppressive, as the likes of Gack and River (Down) become engulfed in waves of noise that reach an apex of nightmare on Shell.

As such, Naked Lungs find themselves dredging up new depths that plenty of post-punk—especially nowadays—seems reticent to touch. They may still be anchored in the same broad territory (alongside Tom Brady not having the most unique voice in the world), but this isn’t just another Idles impression either. It’s hauling far more weight overall, on top of knowing when to bring forth a taut, understated edge with Second Song and Relentless. Production, too, has the bone-dry exterior that’s plenty liable to catch fire, something which Naked Lungs make use of in a very calculated manner. This isn’t all blazing hell from front to back; it’s balanced for maximum effectiveness in all forms.

That’s what makes Naked Lungs so intriguing compared to the majority of others in their field. Yes, that statement seems to get wheeled out with every new act that takes the faintest shuffle away from basically ripping off what’s already out there, but in this case, it’s justified. Largely because Doomscroll feels like its own animal, and one that can’t be curbed or contained by flimsy scene expectations or boundaries. It’s what you want post-punk and noise-rock to be, honestly, and it’s just as thrilling in a physical form as this.

For fans of: Gilla Band, Enola Gay, Gurriers

‘Doomscroll’ by Naked Lungs is released on 18th August.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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