Atlanta band Algiers isn’t stranger to their perceptive songwriting that balances the heavy impact of their illustrative, albeit archaic, sound palette. Building their craft off post-punk, hip-hop, and Southern gothic literature, they’ve created these inspiring creations that feel more dystopian soul with bolstered emotions. Franklin James Fisher’s somber vocals build tension for these more enigmatic performances, delivering the impact of its aesthetic direction. Shook takes bubbling emotions, resonant with listeners who feel empowered by these bombastic and uproarious instrumentations that let you feel heard and seen, though its pacing suffers. Helping build out the emotion-driven concept are features varying from the well-known, like Zack De La Rocha and Big Rube, to the lesser-known, like Patrick Shirosh. Bringing all these different components together, we see a distinct change from their more naturally delivering angst. They are keener to the world around them and find interconnectivity through lyrics and sound, but poor pacing and mixing choices can detract some from returning.
There’s no denying Algiers’ lyrical fortitude. They’ve translated rich themes through different narrative structures, where we get treated to a more linear story or writing that’s more poetic. It’s when we get more of the latter their music begins to take shape, and you hear an upright construct that defines their style while also maturing in orchestration. We get that frequently on Shook without treading toward being too metaphorically abstract. They have this understanding of what their music needs to divulge the depth of meaning, allowing those eager to love both sides of the aisle – more so than the casual pop fan where a plain Ava Maxx record will levy that need for potent lyricism. Sometimes they coast through, leaving subjects ambiguous to a fault. Though it’s a common occurrence with pop and rock, especially with the ballads – note people playing music or playing an instrument to a pet – for Algiers, this strength has allowed them to speak about through this writing and clearing out the themes resonant bleed into that shook feeling.
Algiers explores this vast array of themes that carries perspectives on these divides afflicting humanity. Shook gives us songs that reflect on social class divide (“73%”), socio-racial issues (“As It Resounds”), self-love (“Born”), depression, etc., but what’s beneficial is its interconnectivity; it doesn’t allow it to feel bloated, despite a slower pace. Continuously, Algiers finds remarkable ways to connect their features and elevate their talent, though more so after multiple listens and reading lyrics. Some featured artists are musical performances – we hear Franklin James Fisher maintain fluidity with complementary writing and performances. Others are from spoken word artists; Algiers adds music and vocal harmonizations to continue driving their expressive abstract instrumentations and finding balance with soulful, bluesy singing. It has powerful synergy that makes Shook engaging musical expression, where problems don’t outweigh its complex layering, like their heavy incorporation of more electronic elements brings these new dimensions out of their Hip-Hop influenced drum patterns.
What eventually makes Shook a bit lesser than their last two albums is the inconsistency with the mixing that tweaks the album’s pacing, leaving you without much to deconstruct thematically. Though they help bridge these poignant themes together, they feel more scattered than it appears. Some have instrumentations that blare through, leaving performances in the background, making you miss the impact of the first few go-arounds. It feels like they aimed too hard on bridging concepts and an elevated aesthetic that you’re left more in awe of the production. The enigmatic jazzy, worldly chaos of “Out of Style Tragedy” loses balance between both layered vocal performances; similarly, the blending of Franklin James Fisher’s crooning on “Cleansing Your Guilt Here” isn’t as effective. Fortunately, these aren’t significant detriments, as they maintain a sonic consistency that will keep you at least somewhat intrigued. More so, the clean song-to-song transitions allow Shook to move from a classic 80s Post-Punk DIY to a more Electro-Soul-Rock sound without losing your vibe.
There’s a lot about Shook to love, but it fails to truly become this captivating opus that wears its emotions on its sleeve. It does enough to feel different and more expansive than past drops, especially with the amount of featured artists, but if they spent more time fine-tuning the particular choices made. Fortunately, it’s not this lost diatribe of words trying to establish thematic resonance and instead finds their identity through tremendous musical chaos.