Behold the singer-songwriter: an individual and their guitar, maybe with a backing band. What makes one stand out from the pack?
In Nick Shaheen's case, it's his subtle subversion of all the genre's standbys: sweet love songs, the road song, the songs about self-pity, the occasional murder ballad. There's a reason these types of songs endure, but sometimes they're boring. Give this album careful attention, and Shaheen will make sure you never get bored.
It's not just that Shaheen plays a mean guitar, or that his lyrics are exceptionally sharp, or that his pop-punk delivery suits itself well to folk music. Taken altogether, he's a triple threat. While each song is beautiful in its own right, I'd like to draw attention to "Flashbulbs," an unusual twist on the murder ballad with an unusual backstory. In the song, the narrator recalls being framed for the murder of his lover while chopping vegetables in the kitchen. We learn that the killer used his kitchen knife. The song takes us through the trial and the aftermath, when his name is cleared -- the ambivalent triumph of being declared innocent while you've lost your love in a horrific way.
Shaheen writes he was inspired to write the song when he found himself in the midst of a vivid, violent fantasy while preparing dinner. Shaheen wrote the song to exorcise that particular demon, making the triumph at the end of the song very real.
All of this is to say that these are inventive -- but subtle -- songs from a vivid imagination. It's definitely worth your time.
Nick Shaheen -- Official, Facebook, Purchase, stream on Soundcloud