HOMESHAKE goes Business-Casual with Pragmatic Paradox Helium (LP)
It took me a while to get into Peter Sagar’s recording project HOMESHAKE.
I have always enjoyed the mood of his instrumentals, but for the most part, his overly-casual vocal approach seemed to leave me wanting more.
There were several occasions where I would download one of his albums, listen to it a couple times, and then proceed to remove it from my library because I felt like he didn’t really care about the music he makes, or his existence in general.
When I heard about his 2017 performance at Circle Carnival in my hometown of Calgary, however, I realized that just maybe his artistry was actually going over my head.
I did not attend his Calgary show, because I had not yet heard of him, but a friend of mine who saw this performance explained to me the bizarre behaviour of this talented Montreal recording artist. Allegedly, Sagar was performing solo with his guitar and vocals over top of backing tracks, while simultaneously guzzling a bottle of hard liquor.
He was singing his songs way, way slower than the backing tracks were playing, as his emotional state deteriorated into a somber slump of a solo artist on stage all alone with hundreds of people looking on, perplexed and sympathetic. The audience gracefully reacted by mutually embracing Sagar in a massive group hug, as he sobbed into his empty bottle of JD. If you were at this show, and any of this information is inaccurate, please forgive me.
I revisited HOMESHAKE’s 2015 album “Midnight Snack” a few days after hearing this news, and I must say, the music hit me in my guiltiest nerve, as I realized, truly, how much emotion Peter Sagar puts into his music.
Naturally, I was very excited to hear that HOMESHAKE was coming out with a brand new album in 2019, and I pounced on the opportunity to review said LP.
I have now listened to his new release four or five times, and I am happy to say that the album is an easy listen as a whole, with numerous tasty highlights.
Track two, “Anything At All,” offers the first taste of vocals off the album: “Everyone I know / Lives in my cell phone.” The smooth and simple guitar riff introduces the track, with an electronic snare sample carrying the rhythm. The track has an indie flavour garnished by folk elements, carrying a despondent energy with it.
In the third track, “Like Mariah,” the lyrics are difficult to understand at times due to Sagar’s fluent yet unorthodox phrasing style. Nonetheless, his warm-sounding production keeps his listeners contented, as each instrument stays balanced and concise throughout the track.
In track seven, “Just Like My,” Sagar brings another laid-back variation to the album, with slick percussive rhythms and thought-provoking lyrics, not to be outdone by the chilly Roland tones and the wind-chime samples swooning over the mix. “I need something medium / most goes high like helium” marks a pinnacle point on the album, as he references the title to this, his fourth studio LP. The overall feeling of this song, as well as the album, is comparable to the rising influence of helium in a balloon, prevented from going any further by the presence of a ceiling.
All of the songs on the album tend to end as soon as Sagar is satisfied with the energy he has captured with the crux of the track. It feels like his four interludes were the result of lazy studio days when he felt like making something more minimal. While I enjoy the nature of these interludes, I personally would have liked to hear some smoother transitions between the interludes and the full tracks (most of his songs contain a brief silence at the end—a big pet peeve of mine).
The album closer, “(Secret Track),” is my personal favourite, not only off the album, but off his entire discography. Something about his vocal approach makes me feel like he cares deeply about his art-form and his place in the world. The buttery guitar run at the two-minute mark carries the song the rest of the way through wavy rhythms and trippy low-pitched vocal samples, repeating: “Breathe in / Close your eyes / Fall asleep.” What a chill way to end a marvelous album.
In 2019, HOMESHAKE is going business casual with his latest LP, Helium, a pragmatic paradox of sound and self-expression.
~ written by Taylor Odishaw-Dyck