Photo by Jason MacDonald

Photo by Jason MacDonald

Best Picks: Nov. 30–Dec. 13

Updated: November 29, 2017 - 9:54 am

What to do downtown after work

The year of revealing things

Shamir Bailey describing his career path as a “little unorthodox” is a colossal understatement.

Bailey was a rising star in the indie music world thanks to his debut album, “Ratchet,” and big songs like “On the Regular,” which led him to performing on late-night TV, starring in Apple commercials and getting signed to the label that led to Adele’s stardom. Much of this came before he could legally drink.

Fast forward two years and Bailey has released two more albums. Their difference is stark. In place of the upbeat disco and electro-pop in his earlier work, 2017’s “Hope” and, more recently, “Revelations” are lo-fi, raw and visceral. They came after Bailey was dropped from his label, the artist ditched two albums worth of songs he created with a friend and a point where the Las Vegas native almost quit music altogether.

If 2016, as Kylie Jenner put it, was the year of realizing things, this year led to answers.

“This year was the year of realizing a lot of things about myself and my own little world and my personal life,” he said. “‘Revelations’ is an answer record. ‘Hope’ is full of questions.”

Shamir - Revelations _ Album Art web“Revelations,” which was released in November, features nine introspective, guitar-driven songs that show off the emotional range of the 23-year-old’s characteristic countertenor voice.

It begins with “Games,” which Bailey says he wrote to vent out frustrations. It lays bare that he is wearing his shortcomings and imperfections on his sleeve, he added (“I don’t have much to offer you / But my soul, my heart and everything I’ve been through”).

Other songs, such as “90’s Kids,” are a little more tongue in cheek, though no less honest for Bailey, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder following his last album. Put a drink in the air for millennials, Bailey sings on the track, as they struggle through “paralyzing anxiety.” On “Straight Boy,” the musician, who is queer, vents about the men who cling to a “false sense of pride” (“Cause being true is not their thing / Oh, it eats them up internally / And they take it out on people like me all the time”). That piece of his music dominated the noise around his previous work.

“The press has been easier now. The novelty of me being a queer artist is kind of dying down. Thank God,” he said.

A few songs offer a glimpse into Bailey’s personal life. On “Her Story,” Bailey sings about cooking for a loved one. It’s bit of a throwback to the singer’s childhood, which, thanks to an early growth spurt and a natural ability to cook, was spent preparing full meals for his family. “Cloudy” subtly delves into his religious influences — the Mormon community of Vegas, being raised Muslim and his mom’s other spiritual beliefs.

“Revelations” is a remarkable window into the mind of a captivating figure in the indie music world.

Shamir will perform songs from the album at First Avenue’s 7th Street Entry on Wednesday, Dec. 6. New York-based soft math rock band Peaer (pronounced like “pear”) will open the all-ages show.

For readers, Bailey recommends listening to “Mourn,” the latest album from St. Paul’s Corbin, formerly known as Spooky Black. The emo crooner’s new goth-tinged record is icy, laden with synths and dripping in a dark, lonely sadness.

Bailey is already at work on the next album, which he said will be a concept record.

Take a break

BREAK ROOM cocktail by EB webDiners will only be able to find this cocktail lounge one night of the week. The Break Room, a small bar tucked away at the Machine Shop near St. Anthony Main, offers a fun escape from the usual happy hours of beer and fries. From 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Marcy-Holmes bar serves a lineup of under-valued modern cocktails ($13), such as the unloved Warday’s, a strange but delicious fall beverage that combines gin with apple brandy, green chartreuse and sweet vermouth. Modeled after a whiskey sour, the Gold Rush is the best medicine with bourbon, lemon and honey. The Paper Plane, a cocktail originally named after M.I.A.’s decade-old song “Paper Planes,” is another take on the whiskey sour, but this time with the added complexities of Amaro Nonino and Aperol. If nothing jumps out at you, the able bartenders, led by Stefan van Voorst, will design a drink for you based off a spirit, style or flavor.

The food matches the curated selection of cocktails with a variety of strange but tasty bar treats. The current menu from chef Nettie Colón features yucca fries ($5) or a Hungarian brat nosh ($7) to start off an evening. The Welsh curry poutine ($7) is a unique — not to mention healthier — version of the Canadian comfort food, with satisfyingly chewy paneer curds, fresh tater tots and a warm curry sauce. If you’re really hungry, the lounge even serves pot roast ($9).

After a long Monday in the office, the lounge would be a fun and interesting respite to break up the humdrum of happy hours.

bbh-promo-1Best of the best

Two of the most exciting Twin Cities performers have put together back-to-back shows in December. Indie rock band Bad Bad Hats will headline an early all-ages show and a late 18-plus show on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 7th Street Entry. The trio of frontwoman Kerry Alexander, drummer Chris Hoge and bassist Noah Boswell worked with local producer Brett Bullion to make their celebrated debut album “Psychic Reader.” The producer teamed up with up-and-coming electro-pop singer Jessica Manning to bring her last album, this year’s “What if I Run,” to life. The local singer-songwriter will open the two Bad Bad Hats shows.