By Peter Bosworth EBS CONTRIBUTOR
The Shivers, a New York based folk-rock band, quietly released their debut LP “Charades”in 2004, and in an era defined by garage-rock revival, The Shivers’ release zigged where Billboard leaders like the Libertines and the Strokes zagged. Those bands documented frivolous love affairs, disappointing parties, and urban malaise with a scuzzy lo-fi sound—The Shivers, on the other hand, were making intimate acoustic ballads about romance and heartbreak.
They’ve never cared about being cool, only being honest.
Naturally, their hushed tunes never amounted to the commercial success that other contemporary bands achieved, but they did land the group a cult following. Celebrities like Patricia Arquette and Daniel Radcliffe are die-hard fans; Aaron Paul, famous for his role as Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, even recruited the band to play their popular track “Beauty” at his wedding.
So much of the rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic is centered on maintaining a devil-may-care indifference. Frankly, The Shivers could not stray farther from that credo, led by singer and frontman Keith Zarreillo’s practically compulsive obsession with sentimentality—and with an eerily erotic voice to match.
Jim Harrison, author of the epic “Legends of the Fall” once said, “the [artist] who refuses sentiment refuses the full spectrum of human behavior, and then he just dries up. … I would rather give full vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smartass.”
With their newest record, “I’m on Your Side,” The Shivers risk being corny, but with great success. Over eight tracks, Zarreillo acts as a cartographer of love: mapping the peaks of passion, and the valleys of heartbreak.
Take the album’s very first track, “Capricorn and Cancer”; with whispered lyrics “Capricorn and Cancer, blue sky turning grey, once you were my dancer, you were dancing round my head.” For the astrologically ignorant, Capricorn and Cancer are opposing astronomical signs known for passionate love affairs, so when the track’s soft guitar is juxtaposed with the gritty guitar solo, it’s in homage to the phenomenon. And despite that The Shivers’ lyrics walk a tight line that teeters on cliché, it’s their clever instrumentation that demonstrates an attractive talent.
The Shivers are truly at their best when they slow down and lean into their sentimentality. While The Shivers have made their fair share of slow-burners, “I’m on Your Side” is easily the most unabashedly melancholic record in the band’s catalog. It may not be the coolest rock record you’ll hear this year, but it certainly is among the most genuine.