Released September 16th, 2016 via Total Treble Music
The previous album "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" was a cathartic effort for Laura Jane (previously Tom) and I would consider "Shape Shift with Me" as an evolution album on the journey that Laura has undertaken.
Produced mainly by Laura Jane herself I see this album as a transition act (no pun intended). It is a mix of politics and personal stuff as you would expect but also general observations e.g. Provision L3. The latter and album opening track is a nervous, chaotic but classic punk song about airports scanners while 12.03 has a more settled tempo and displays all the characteristics of an AM gem. Its sharp, energetic and supported by the ever charismatic voice from Laura Jane.
There is a trio of songs that I like to listen on this album. It is Crash, Boyfriend and Delicate, petite and all other Things I’ll Never Be. Crash is a power pop song which is easy to remember with its chorus and backing vocals. It’s simple but powerful and rather efficient. The video supporting the track is showing a light-hearted side of AM that you don’t get to see that often. Boyfriend with its Sonic Youth / Pixie-ish intro almost gives me the feeling of a grand animalesque carnival; a musical Ying and Yang with a lot of smiles and tears. The third track is probably more reflective of the personal evolution that Laura is going thru but this is a fantastic song, musically speaking, too.
333 is probably one of the stand out song of the album. At first it sounds easy in terms of melody but I cannot get it out of my head for the last few days. Haunting, Haunted, Haunts sounds Pogues-ish, Dead Rats is anecdotal to be honest but Rebecca and Norse Truth are very strong AM tunes with Norse Truth spoken words resonating towards All This(and More)- a perfect recap song for a strong and solid album.
This 7th album is not the strongest of the band but is very good by any means. The songs are solid and there are two to three tunes that I would be very curious to see on stage. This time around the album is not necessarily a platform or a statement for a life changing decision. It should rather be viewed as a collection of vignettes on life, reflections on politics and other stuff.
Overall: If not the best - it does still pass the Against Me classics test.
If I was To Pick 3 only: Crash, Boyfriend, 333
Live Test: if only they could come to Ireland
Review by Pascal Derrien