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Review: Shinobi, The World is Mine (Self-Released, 2018)

Released about a month ago, I'm a little behind on—but no less enthusiastic regarding—the latest EP from Philadelphia quartet Shinobi. In fact, The World is Mine is markedly improved, and presents the group's strongest material yet—in no small part due to the fact that they stepped up to a more legit studio (Tall Man), and even had the tracks mastered at freakin' Sterling Sound! The tracklist is comprised of new recordings of two songs that were initially released as digital singles last summer—"Last I Heard" and "The World is Mine"—sandwiching one brand new tune: "Feels Just Like."

As I've stated before, lead track "Last I Heard" is just packed with Oasis-isms: big, open chords; fuzzy lead melodies; chorus hooks; etc. But the fuckin' bizarre hammer-on/pull-off runs and dissonantly swingin' upstroke accents are truly something unique—as is the shy rasp of the band's vocal presence.

More straightforward, "Feels Just Like" is an excellently written '90s-influenced alt.-rock jam whose symmetry of melody and grit is reminiscent of the Foo Fighters with a little bit of The Breeders thrown in, perhaps. Between its hard-hitting percussion and the memorable bounce of the chorus—dare I say, were this recorded by the Foo Fighters, it could easily be a hit.

"The World is Mine," however, remains probably my favorite Shinobi track to date. That gripping combination of the sullen-yet-singable is a homerun as far as I'm concerned. There's a certain desperation to the vocals—unknowingly confident and open as a result of the unavoidable emotion required of the performance. Just a beautiful song. Really.

I'm told that Shinobi is striving for a sound halfway between the "polish" of The World is Mine and the ruggedness of their earlier work, but… in my personal opinion, they're already there. These recordings achieve a nice fusion of grit 'n' gloss. The dirt doesn't dampen the force of the bass presence, the vocals are blended right in with the instruments but you can still pick up on the subtle harmonies and layering intricacies, etc. I honestly wouldn't tweak much. Compared to last summer's (since-deleted) singles, these sessions do a damn fine job of highlighting the band's energy and songwriting talents.

Of which, all I can say is that—to my ears—Shinobi absolutely puts forth a superior aesthetic to a lot of what I hear out there these days within this general sphere. They're amongst the select few contemporary bands that I follow rather closely, and I truly believe that with the right amount of exposure these kids could really resonate. I only wish I could do more to wake people up and spread the word, but I'm just a near-useless old man with good taste. One of these days, though, someone that "matters" is gonna catch on to this shit…

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