Published Feb 13, 2019Artists are often easing into the perks of a more established industry presence by their fourth album — access to better studios and equipment, maybe a big-name producer on board — but Montreal's Homeshake (aka Pete Sagar) continues to walk his own humble path, recording Helium (like 2017's Fresh Air) by himself in his apartment.
It's a choice that suits Sagar's take on indie R&B nicely however: a delicate, lonely and plaintive style, one can picture him in his room at four a.m., surrounded by gear and melancholy. Some might gently suggest it's time to mix things up a bit, but if you've been happily tuned into Sagar's wavelength thus far, you'll find little to dislike on Helium.
It's a woozier, less groove-oriented album than Fresh Air, with Sagar on record saying he was heavily influenced by ambient music during the time of its recording, and Helium is a good description for its floaty, unmoored vibe.
It certainly isn't without melody or direction however; Sagar's delicate synth and guitar work turns out some very pretty lines, buoyed by simple but effective drum programming. Things come together especially nicely in this regard during "Nothing Could Be Better," where a few well-placed handclaps kick things into an ever-so-slightly higher gear during its lilting chorus; small details like this populate the album, as opposed to bigger, more obvious gestures.
The shorter, vocal-less interludes that pepper the tracklist benefit from their subtle details as well. The twee "Salu Says Hi" plays with pitch-bent vocals in an amusing way, and "Couch Cushion" is a beautiful synth vignette that ends on a truly ambient note; you can literally hear the bedroom air surrounding it. It all adds up to a deeply felt, personal album that, like his previous work, should serve as the perfect soundtrack to many a late-night contemplation hour. (Royal Mountain Records)