– featured image courtesy of graham w. bell –
“album of the fortnight” is a bi-weekly feature that digs into a recent release of note. the articles will run roughly during the middle and at the end of each month, always on a friday; the album or body of work in question will have been released at some point during that two-week span. this column focuses on art that resonates deeply, on pieces that necessitate more than just a knee-jerk reaction. closing out the year: alexei shishkin.
Alexei shishkin is remarkably effective at parlaying seemingly-mundane observations into couplets that suggest pause should be given. he opens his aptly-titled third album, 3, musing that he’s “always floating, on an ocean / ever golden,” the final syllable locking into the accompanying chord progression’s ascension to boost the mood. and, indeed, 3 is an undeniably catchy album, a collection of breezy pop songs that all seem to be competing to have the most memorable hook. shishkin is equally gifted at weaving these guitar motifs through the greater arrangements, sometimes doubling them with vocals, sometimes letting them pull their own weight.
of course, not every moment on 3 is as sunny as the beginning of “pushing my luck.” shishkin explores impermanence and imagination on “fourteen hour,” ramifications of communication breakdown on the infectious “muddled,” and a fleeting sense delivered through an abstract lens on “celeb dog,” each facet delivered in his patented unassuming monotone. an even-keeled exterior may prevail, but there remains ample space for shishkin to sort out the more nuanced components of his narratives.
the majority of 3 was written in 2015, before shishkin’s cross-country move from portland to new york. drums came a year later, tracked remotely by jon fust in boise; final vocals were touched up this year in new york. jess pierson’s voice lightly traces shishkin’s throughout the album, often joining forces with a keyboard or guitar to further support a hook, giving 3 an understated but effective aural anchor that breathes familiarity and comfort.
thirteen tracks gives shishkin ample space to stretch out and venture into newer sonic territory. various horns pop up across 3, warm electric piano turns populate successive tracks “umm” and “talkback machine,” and a prominent envelope filter renders standout cut “pittsburgh” gently psychedelic. and then there’s “slowerr,” a three-minute ostinato predicated on shishkin’s hypnotic looping of the phrase “i didn’t mean it” buried deep within muddied guitar chords and pillowy piano flourishes. having already solidified his pop bonafides, these supplements allow shishkin to burrow deeper into a more nuanced iteration of his songwriting persona.
3 is a wonderful and important addition to alexei shishkin’s already-promising catalogue. it’s out today via the reliable forged artifacts; click through the link below to stream and purchase.