By Dylan Grosz
A modulated voice introduces the artist’s sophomore full-length “Midnight Snack” by adding a question mark to his name: “Homeshake?” Who is Homeshake? On first listen, Peter Sagar seems like a slightly underproduced solo artist, a naive descendent of a possibly saturated slacker rock genre, simply a former touring guitarist for the successful Mac Demarco. However, with calculated instrumental and lyrical naivete, Sagar’s Homeshake has created music that, while sometimes experimentally awkward, is able to navigate a man’s attempt to declare his love, only to be squandered by his own emotional repression. “Fresh Air” introduces Homeshake’s growing chops as a producer as he expands his use of R&B electronics.
His first album, “In the Shower,” details a man doubly trapped. He eyes a beautiful girl, and while he lusts for her, he remains in denial of even a physical love, let alone one of emotion. He is stuck alone, in his shower, in his home. His following album, “Midnight Snack,” sees the man turn to themes of tension and hedonism as he embraces his lust for this woman. While he gets the girl, he remains passionate yet impassive, diving into sex and substance with his partner, ambiguous as to whether it’s for recreation or for emotional numbing. As the album ends, he desires something deeper.
Enter “Fresh Air.” Rather than see a peaceful continuation of their relationship, a new problem emerges that inhibits nearly all relationships: communication. The first conventional song and lead single “Call Me Up” introduces through soft horns his emphatic desire to listen. While the album is cheery up to this point, “Not U” introduces a sonic mood shift, with a shaky keyboard riff teetering on the edge as Homeshake contemplates his love.
“Wrapping Up,” a downtempo take on Noname and KAYTRANADA instrumentals, introduces a new aspect of Homeshake’s sound. Emphasis on bass and swelling keyboards over programmed drums creates a soundscape of faded contemplation as Homeshake begins falling back into soft drugs to sully his inner conflict. As the song lulls listeners to sleep, they are quickly jolted awake by a vibrating phone as “Getting Down Pt II (He’s Cooling Down)” is the first full song to center around Sagar’s guitar — or at least his synthetic depiction of it — as the track mirrors “Midnight Snack’s” “He’s Heating Up” in its off-kiltered guitar arpeggio.
On “Timing,” Sagar’s voice proves too brittle for such an encompassing, robust instrumental backdrop. Many of his points about his obsession with saying the right thing at the right time fall flat as the superseding synths completely distract from delivering any of Homeshake’s vocal emotion. Luckily, the weakness of “Timing” is recovered by an extraordinary second half. “TV Volume” comes from Frank Ocean’s bedroom, simply produced with Blonde-esque minimalist R&B. At this stage of the record, Homeshake is still at odds with his partner, insisting he should lower the TV volume despite her unfazed disregard.
Where “Timing” failed to deliver a relatively grand beat to accompany Homeshake’s vocals, “Khmlwugh” effectively blends Sagar’s limited vocals with more dominant instrumentation. Serving as the crescendo of the album, “Khmlwugh” sees Homeshake consider how their love has become routine, reduced to simply “Kissing, hugging, making love, waking up, and getting high.” As the song ends in a swirling soundscape of confusion, Homeshake transitions outdoors, as he finally leaves his home for a walk to clear his head. By no coincidence, “Fresh Air” also transitions to its title track. Its ominous winds and chorus of oohs represent a laid-back emotional break from the instrumentally straightforward tracks that preceded it. Over this six minute-long interlude-of-sorts, the mood shifts. As the airiness of “Fresh Air” cuts abruptly to the off-putting “Serious,” Homeshake is despondent, calling back to the drug-induced emotional coma that Homeshake employed in “Midnight Snack:” “So he’s gonna take a few of those pills / To be serious … I know what’s easier / Just to pack it up, pretend it ain’t you.” “So She” serves as the most genuine song on the record, as it is the only song to feature solely tangible instruments. With an earworm of a chorus, this track reinforces that when they’re with each other, their conversation is superficial, oxymoronically together alone: “She’ll be her, I’ll be me, we’ll be alone.”
The relationship is moribund, slowly poisoned by Homeshake and his partner talking past each other. However, “This Way” offers a final glimpse of hope as Homeshake makes a final case to his partner — or maybe just to himself at this point — bemoaning the state of their relationship, desperately begging his partner “I don’t wanna feel this pain / So why you gonna live this way?” Over conventional bright R&B keys, the listener is swept by another breeze and veered off into the album’s short instrumental epilogue, unsure if the record’s end also punctuates their love.
Essential tracks: “Call Me Up,” “Every Single Thing,” “TV Volume,” “Khmlwugh,” “So She”
Contact Dylan Grosz at dgrosz ‘at’ stanford.edu.