[14 August 2014]
Los Angeles’ Jafar Jahanshahi makes electronic music under the alias Shines. Based on his recent self-titled EP, it is of the blissed-out and fragile quality. There are some nice touches sprinkled throughout the disc, whether it be the old-timey jazz sample that ends “Illusion’s Truth” or the plucked harps that permeates “Hushed”. Ultimately, though, this comes off as pretty boring stuff – watching paint dry might be more exciting – until you get halfway through the album and “Woke Up” takes hold. It’s a no-holds barred, thumping anthem with a glorious melody. And it’s the very best thing to be found on the Shines EP. It really doesn’t get much better than that, which makes you wish that there were more songs in this vein. But, alas, this EP is pretty much on the quiet side, with songs that don’t have much of a destination in mind. This is surprising given that Jahanshahi’s uncle was a member of the Vandals, a punk band. You would surmise that some of that raw energy and power would permeate these songs, but no. They’re just pretty, pretty and don’t do an awful lot to engage the listener.
A classic case in point is opener “Into the Further/Heartstrung”. It begins with chimes and bird song (the latter of which is buried fairly low in the mix) and a singular sustained keyboard chord. This goes on for a good minute and thirty-eight seconds, before giving way to a subtle thump of a song. At which point, you might want to start gouging your eyes out just from the sheer laidback quality of the song. “Finding Eden” doesn’t fare much better, as it starts out with keyboard washes and a low tempo beat. And, aside from “Woke Up”, the rest of this EP is all the same. What the Shines EP really needs is some sonic variation. It’s one thing to do something once, but to repeat yourself over and over again is something of a cardinal sin in music making, and Jahnashahi’s music is far too relaxed and blasé to really make an impact. So, essentially, this EP is really for those who like to listen to something while unwinding from a tough day. Me? I think I’m now going to stare at the wall for a while now and see if I can count the paint specks.