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.