Canadian synthpop artist Peter Sagar, known musically as HOMESHAKE, released his newest album Helium on Feb. 15. A previous member of Mac DeMarco’s live band, Sagar released his 33-minute compilation as the fourth installation in his solo repertoire.
On Spotify, Sagar said Helium takes a turn away from the guitar-ladenness of his previous works, stepping more into a lo-fi musical aesthetic. “Ever since I started introducing synthesizers into my music, I’ve gotten more interested in texture,” he said in his bio.
With Helium, Sagar definitely succeeds in his implementation of sound as texture. Layers can be found in each song, whether it be in production or lyrical depth. The synth vibe that Homeshake broke into with its 2017 album Fresh Air is felt even heavier as its music moves farther away from the previous psychedelic jazz sound it once conjured.
The record starts with a tranquil symphony of electronic chirps. A short intro into the 13-song tracklist, “Early” sets listeners up for an ethereal experience. Peacefully synthesized keyboard chords blend with the slowly bouncing notes in a way that mimics what an ideal morning might sound like — bright and early, birds chirping away.
The transition into “Anything at All” is abrupt, bringing listeners out of this trance into a new, more commanding atmosphere. Sagar’s voice is smooth over the thump of the drum as the lick of the guitar gently sways up and down a scale of calming notes.
Although the album is significantly less jazz-influenced than his previous works, the strong bass lines are still felt in songs like “Like Mariah.” The lyrics of this song talk about Sagar’s desire to sing “like Mariah does.” While we aren’t given a last name, one can only imagine Sagar is referring to the legendary Mariah Carey. The lyrics of this song are a prime example of vulnerability, detailing Sagar’s insecurities about his singing voice.
The next song on the album, “Heartburn,” is a 36-second interlude adding galactic noise that could indeed induce heartburn from the anxiety-springing sounds. It transitions into a sci-fi cluster before beginning “All Night Long,” a more dissonant track. The tone evens out as the song goes on, introducing more calming vocals to balance the loudly sparkling background.
“Just Like My” is currently the most popular track from the album, already in HOMESHAKE’s top three most popular songs listed on Spotify. The low groove of the bass and bright use of windchimes gives a dreamy spirit to the track, which lyrically describes Sagar’s feelings of solitude after not leaving the house. The skillful layering of the vocals with subtle, complex ornamentations makes this one of the best vocally-produced songs on Helium.
The last song on the album is called “(Secret Track).” Considering it’s label as a secret track, the question of what makes it so secret remains pretty unanswered. This song wraps up the album on a more R&B jazz note — a deep voice giving instructions for falling asleep.
Many of the interludes and long instrumental breaks on the album give it a meditative essence. Overall, Helium is a relaxing listen perfect for late-night kickbacks and study sessions alike — or burning incense and reading the latest issue of The Daily Californian. Anything really goes.