Though Shamir's Northtown EP made him one to watch, it was his single "On the Regular," a witty, charismatic, and almost unclassifiable mix of pop, dance, and hip-hop that truly put him on the map. It's also his only previously released music to appear on his debut album Ratchet, and it's still his defining moment. Full of dazzling wordplay -- "don't try me, I'm not a free sample" is catch phrase-worthy -- as well as gloriously cheap-sounding keyboards and a cowbell that might as well be tapping out "fun" in Morse code, it's a bold statement of purpose. The rest of Ratchet is just as vibrant and charming, with Shamir taking what made that song so great in different directions. A similarly irresistible pulse drives the disco-house excursion "Hot Mess," while "Demon" emphasizes his songwriting skills as he sketches out a Bonnie and Clyde-like relationship with sweetly twisted lyrics like "you're the trap that captured me." Ratchet continues the autobiographical flair Shamir showed on Northtown and "On the Regular"; whether he's tracing how he and his friends make an oasis for themselves in Las Vegas' cultural desert on the strutting prologue "Vegas" and "Make a Scene"'s bumping hedonism, or getting more vulnerable on "Darker," it's always compelling. The album continues his partnership with producer Nick Sylvester, and together they create a sound with clear influences -- early Prince and Michael Jackson, Grace Jones' disco, '90s R&B, and DFA-style dance music, to name a few -- that is also tantalizingly difficult to put in any stylistic box. Then again, when the results are as satisfying as "Call It Off"'s glittering, celebratory breakup anthem or "In for the Kill"'s audacious stomp, perhaps it's better to just enjoy how easy Shamir makes it seem. Ratchet is a fully realized, entertaining portrait of an artist who knows where he's from and where he's going.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2