By Staff Writer Tom Griffin.
The popular Canadian indie artist HOMESHAKE released a new album earlier last week, showcasing more of the synth sound that granted him his unique fame.
The best way to describe his new album, simply entitled Helium, would be to typify it into the generalized genre of synth…maybe.
It shows some semblance of soul and easy-listening music, but that description doesn’t do its actual genre justice. Its rhythms sound a bit like those of traditional pop, so would it be worth it to consider this album synth-pop? Does this album have a genre? Can it be classified? What kind of a stage-name is HOMESHAKE, anyway?
To understand the strange album, it’s important to first understand the strange artist behind it. Up until 2015, HOMESHAKE wasn’t even an independent artist.
He started just as Peter Sagar, serving as the rhythm guitarist for the highly popular, equally eccentric, widely-considered “King of Indie Rock,” Mac DeMarco, during live concerts and recording sessions.
For two years, he spent his music career platooning with the brightest mind in the indie rock scene. While his tenure with DeMarco was incredibly successful, Sagar felt that the best way to bolster the personal career he wanted was to split from DeMarco entirely.
Sagar tested the waters with two demo mixtapes in 2013, with both reaching positive acclaim.
The following year, after establishing his independence, he released a fully-fledged studio album entitled In the Shower, which, like the album that followed, Midnight Snack, sounded much like DeMarco’s original indie rock aesthetic, right down to the flat drumline and hazy, softly delivered vocals.
While he was still producing quality tracks, Sagar had yet to diversify his sound from that of his former master.
Following the release of Midnight Snack in 2015, Sagar took two years to come up with a new sound that was truly unique to him. While maintaining his slacker rock roots to DeMarco, he diversified heavily into R&B, introduced synthesizers into his repertoire, and put more emphasis onto his truly unique wailing falsetto.
The result, a third album entitled Fresh Air, was unlike anything Sagar or DeMarco had ever brought to the scene. The R&B angle gave the drumline and bass a natural rhythm of dance music, but the synth chords and vocals, when put through enough reverb, created a counterpoint of dreaminess that completely matched the rhythm note for note.
The result: music that always makes you feel like you’re elsewhere −like you’re floating around in space instead of folding laundry or doing homework−a tone truly unique to Sagar’s solo work.
Flash forward to February of 2019. HOMESHAKE drops Helium to minimal fanfare. Following the success of Fresh Air in 2017, Helium is competently more of the same.
Though not quite a holding pattern or reminder that the artist exists, it’s different enough from Fresh Air to be a standout album by itself, albeit with less intensive percussion and rhythm. Introspective and pensive, Helium’s track list features softer instrumentals to reflect it.
While only different from his past works in nuance, Helium brings more of what makes Peter Sagar HOMESHAKE, and vice versa. As an artist, he’s established his style and he’s staying true to his music. It’s about as original as music can get.