End of the year, end of the decade (or is that 2021?), and DJ Shadow is right on the nose about our modern day in his new record, Our Pathetic Age. I won’t lie, it’s not easy trying to not be nihilistic with…well…*gestures to literally everything.*
Shadow has been at work for a while now, launching his career into the stratosphere with his 1996 sample-heavy masterpiece, Endtroducing…., a record you must hear at some point in your life. Following that early critical success the DJ was a bit elusive, refusing to be pigeonholed by his debut, and threw a few curve balls for his following releases, including the sublime “Nobody Speaks” with Run The Jewels off 2016’s The Mountain Will Fall. That single became one of his most popular listens. This year though, Shadow’s back, and he’s got an ax to grind.
Our Pathetic Age is double-record exploring our phone-driven, anxiety-laden existence, where everything is hopeless and all we can do is watch and react to the black mirror as the world goes down in flames. Throughout the album Shadow and the guests who join for second half have plenty to share about the ills of social media, the attention economy, the merging of the real world and being extremely online, and the downfall of democracy brought to you by Twitter and Facebook. Grousing about these things are extremely my bag, I gotta say!
I’m a gigantic fan of Future Islands singer Samuel T. Herring after hearing him on that BBNG joint a while back, and “Our Pathetic Age” is a glorious way to conclude the record. Shadow’s production is cinematic and evocative, with lonesome synths and an air of resolve. Herring’s presence here is palpable, and there’s remorse in his words as he reveals how he’s abandoned a friend, someone he needs now. I’m really enjoying this listen.