It’s been two years since East Van trio, Needles//Pins, released their first full LP 12:34. In those same two years, Needles//Pins have refined their power pop punk sound while keeping their down-and-dirty, low-class charms intact.
Shamebirds covers a lot of the same territory as before: bad exes and bad decisions. The record is, however, a little older, wiser, and maybe a touch more sober than 12:34. Songs like “Polaroid” and “High & Waiting // Cheap Cigarettes” reflect upon life’s trials and errors while contrasting those motifs with catchy, light-hearted riffs.
Songs like, “Only Call Me When You’re Drunk” and “What’s His Face?” have the potential to become catchy singles, but their playfulness is challenged by the album’s predominantly melancholic tone. Subtle but apparent, Shamebirds’ thematic depth reveals how Needles//Pins has grown and changed since their last album release.
Shamebirds sums itself up nicely on its final track,“I’m a Drag.” Here lead vocalist Adam Ess sings: “Sometimes it takes a lot to feel normal / Sometimes it takes a lot to feel right / It’s stupid I know / But sometimes it gets tough like tonight.” These lyrics typify how the album is self-aware and a little sad without taking itself too seriously. Needles//Pins definitely have the art of zen, booze, and cigarettes down pat.
The general production value on Shamebirds seems to have improved since 12:34, without sounding overproduced. Adam Ess’ vocals are notably clearer, while still endearingly scratchy and rough.
On the whole, Shamebirds is catchy, well-structured, and tightly knit together. Its 10 terse tracks are an ideal summer release, perfect for being enjoyed during a hazy and hot August sunset.