The Shifters


The Shifters Open Vault 2xLP

In the early stages of 2020’s pandemic lockdowns that put live gigs and recording plans on pause indefinitely, the SHIFTERS offered up Open Vault as a sprawling digital content dump/stop-gap release of alternate takes, demos, and live cuts culled from 2016 to 2019. Most of these 25 tracks were never intended for public consumption (despite now being on a double-LP, of all formats!), and while odds-and-sods collections have a tendency to be half-baked and/or exercises in self-indulgence, Open Vault functions surprisingly well as a cohesive album, never seeming like some sort of hodge-podge of inconsequential throwaways—even when the presentation is decidedly shambolic and smudged-up, like the home recordings captured via built-in laptop and cell phone mics with drums literally thudded out on a kid-sized Spongebob Squarepants kit, the SHIFTERS’ songwriting is always uncannily sharp, with a lyrical focus that’s just as pointed (the repercussions of imperialism/colonialism and the shallow realities of late-stage capitalist life are both recurring themes). The Flying Nun-descended (and comparatively more polished) jangle pop that had been increasingly centered on the band’s last few records is largely de-emphasized in this particular context, with the FALL/COUNTRY TEASERS trebly twang of their 2015 debut cassette fully at the forefront in the minimal, repetitive clamor of tracks like “Induced” and “Faux American History;” the perfectly primitive (by which I mean, “Spongebob-kitted”) spin on “Work, Life, Gym, Etc.” from their Trouble in Mind full-length Have A Cunning Plan is particularly great. SHIFTERS scraps are honestly better than a lot of like-minded bands’ A-list material, and I have a feeling that this isn’t even the half of it here.