Album Review: Homeshake—“Fresh Air”

By Emma Kelly, Feature Photo via Spin

Fresh Air is the latest offering of lo-fi synth pop with R&B sensibilities to be released by Peter Sagar under the moniker, Homeshake. Sagar, who left Mac DeMarco’s touring band in 2013 to pursue a solo career in music, established his flair for woozy guitar riffs and soft, crooning vocals on two previous albums In the Shower and Midnight Snack. Upon first impression, Fresh Air seems like more of the same. The same drifting quality of the melodies, the same delicate balance of placidity and melancholy struck in the lyrics (when Sagar sings “laying out and sipping chamomile/so slow, waiting patiently/trying to spend the day away” on “Timing,” it’s hard to tell whether he means this as a droll observation or a confession). However, a newfound agency lies just beneath the surface of this album, endowing it with a far more compelling narrative than its forerunners.

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“Fresh Air” Album Cover

This time around, Sagar experiments with clumsy chillwave conventions and yields surprisingly elegant results. His incorporation of drum machines, synthesizers, and an unsettling sounds-like-the-lovechild-of-HAL-and-Siri computer voice are all decidedly bargain-brand techniques. Nonetheless, they work to create a juxtaposition between the architecture of the song and its subject matter that knocks the listener off-kilter. The gaudy embellishment serves to emphasize, rather than hide, the wires holding it in place.

The slick, bassy groove of “Getting Down Pt II (He’s Cooling Down)” is undercut by the nerve-wracking vibration of an unanswered phone in the background. “Call Me Up” evokes peak Prince funkiness, but Sagar’s falsetto seems too brittle to carry it. Distraction, alienation, paranoia, and anxiety color every track in varying shades. “Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey…are you even paying attention to me right now?” interrupts a panicked voice amid “Every Single Thing.” Later, on “Wrapping Up,” Sagar drones: “I ain’t looking for some company…Please don’t take it personally.” The narrative he crafts throughout Fresh Air is one in which the speaker craves intimacy and connection, but is unable to break through their self-induced isolation. Don’t be fooled by its mellow veneer, the tension barely contained in this album is what makes it an intriguing listen.

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