By Hannah Wisterman
Artist: Shy Girls
Release Date: January 16, 2017
Dan Vidmar, better known by his stage name Shy Girls, has slowly been building hype for his first full length album Salt over the course of four years, since he released his first single “Under Attack”. The track garnered massive positive reception, and ever since, the industry has had its eyes on the budding PBR&B artist. Vidmar delivered on critics’ expectations in January, and went the extra mile when he did it.
In a beautiful expository post about the album, Vidmar explains that the album focused on the “thousands of tiny deaths” he has experienced through life, and his deep desire to have a partner to share those deaths with “so [they] become our tiny deaths and I am never alone”. That tenderness and introspection rings clear through the whole album, with Vidmar’s understated croon and lyrics confronting the passage of time and the self-destruction of past relationships. The fact that the album was self-produced adds to the intimacy. In his own words, the album is “soul-searching”, and by it being self-produced, listeners feel that they are going through Vidmar’s journey just as he would himself.
Musically, the album rings of the likes of FKA twigs and SZA. Vidmar artfully combines emotionally wrought vocals, chillwave influences, and subtle but impactful bass, upon which his melodies flourish. There’s not a dull moment in the album–Vidmar has mastered the art of withholding elements until they can fill the most appropriate pause, and not a moment sooner or later. He keeps his rhythms either bouncy enough to bop to or drawn-out enough to get lost in, in the best way.
I can barely bring myself to single out any specific song from the album because I genuinely loved each one, but I can certainly pick out a few highlights. “Why I Love” taps into the lonely pain of heartbreak, both in lyrics like “I feel it, I feel it when I don’t want to/and I can’t find another way to sleep at night/that’s why I love” and in production choices: towards the end of the song, the sound is produced in a way reminiscent of songs recorded in bathrooms or closets, the voice quality distant and deeply personal because of it. In contrast with that introspection is “You Like The Pain Too”, slightly more upbeat and with more punch. “It’s the pain that comes through/it’s the only thing we do to keep the blood on our wounds”, Vidmar sings, both his tone and lyrics implying accusation and conflict. So Vidmar sets the scales level: we know that relationships can be fraught with turmoil and pain, yet we still innately want them.
Perhaps most poignant is a track very near the end, “Time (Hell Won’t Wait For Us)”. It’s a nihilist reflection on the ephemeralness of life—it gets more than a little existential. The tempo is kept even with metronomic percussion, and the song’s extremely minimal instrumentation makes the lyrics unignorable: “There is no reason, there is only time/I know my thoughts will decompose into time.”
Though Vidmar may have written the album as a means of grieving his life’s tiny deaths, he also notes in his exposition that “in moments of conception, death leaves the mind.” By giving us this album, Vidmar turns his tiny deaths into tiny births, in such a way that, in his words, they become “our births, and we are never alone.”