Homo Anxietatem opens with a rug pull and a track that could have been lifted straight from a ’90s drive time radio rotation. It’s a bold move, even given the prolific, experimental approach Shamir has to getting his music out into the world.
The track in question, ‘Oversized Sweater’ is an exercise in time travel with its jangling guitar taking us back to an era where the internet was dial-up and TV was Friends; there’s also a similar trick a little later with ‘The Beginning’ and its big, Deep Blue Something ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ energy.
But skim through Shamir’s back catalogue and you’re also going to hear Prince, Nine Inch Nails, Yeasayer and a whole world of effervescent pop, experimental R&B and lo-fi playfulness. From hip hop to country, industrial to avant garde, he’s blurred edges since his 2015 album, Ratchet, emerged as an earnest but flamboyant pop exercise in self-discovery. And in the fast-growing list of releases since, it still feels like the best reference point for his multifaceted, genre-blurring output as he addresses bi-polar disorder, racist violence and the queer Black experience with fluttering reinvention.
Here, the heavier, industrial-leaning sound of 2022’s Heterosexuality has gone and so has (much of) the impulse for sweeping creative overhaul that has characterized the last eight years. Instead of another full reset, Homo Anxietatem feels closer to 2020’s self-titled Shamir in its approach with poppy slacker rock (‘Appetizer), stripped back folk (‘Calloused’) and sliding blues (‘The Devil Said the Blues is All I Know’) keeping things esoteric enough to satisfy this accidental pop star.