Shaylee: Short-Sighted Security [Album Review]

Short-Sighted Security
Kill Rock Stars [2022]

Performing as Shaylee, Portland, Ore. singer songwriter Elle Archer has delivered a true ‘Do-it-yourself’ tribute to the music that inspired her to make music in the first place, turn of the century works by alternative rock bands like Flaming Lips, Wilco, and Radiohead. Of course, many of the alt/rock staples that inspired her give obvious nods to the melodic classic rock influences that inspired them, the jangly power-pop and classic rock that continues to connect with fans to this day. Taking full advantage of the pandemic lock-down, Archer focused her considerable talents to creating music that honors that past, while delivering a personal statement designed to pass the test of time. A multi-instrumentalist, she plays all but a few of the instruments on display in this collection of songs – at least all the guitars, bass, drums, and synths, but credits a friend, Matt, for providing a bit of organ, cello, and violin on a couple tracks.

Like most great art, Shaylee’s songs tell a personal story of struggle, the longing for love and its failings, and her attempts to live, grow, and develop meaningful relationships as a queer trans woman, given that “The World Changes Around Us.” That her story connects to the inner questions and self-conscious worry common to all who’ve wondered where they might fit in the world, makes her songs all the more universal; she tells a fundamentally human story. And as in pop music, it’s her catchy melodic sensibilities that draw the listener in to her experience, and it’s the impressive collection of sounds that she brings together that provide the connective tissue that all great music relies on.

But knowing that Archer had to put these lengthy, sometimes elaborately arranged power-pop anthems together one layer at a time, won’t keep you from imagining a full-band jamming on tracks like “Stranded Living Room,” “Audrey” and “Oblivion,” which tend to build to allow for majestic guitar soloing, an area where she excels. In “Ophelia” she includes a classic noise breakdown to express the chaos that can come when brief, fast-burning attraction blossoms quickly before it implodes.

On this third album, Shaylee capitalizes on years of studying the songs that once meant the world to her and brings all that knowledge to this fine DIY project, which puts her in the strong company of solo recording efforts by Paul McCartney and Todd Rundgren. Throughout Short-Sighted Security, Archer’s songs seem to ask if there’s room in the world for her and her music, even as she her music carves out a unique space rooted in the strong display of her many talents.

“Ophelia” / “Audrey” / “Please Talk To Me”

Weezer / Flaming Lips / Wilco

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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