It’s been a big couple weeks for HOMESHAKE fans. At the end of last month, the Montreal-based group released two more singles on Soundcloud in addition to announcing a European tour for this May.
They released their third full album, “Fresh Air,” on Friday, signaling on social media by changing the Facebook profile to the cover art for the album. Fans have been anticipating a new release since the release of their critically-acclaimed album “Midnight Snack” in 2015.
This album further explores HOMESHAKE’s unique tone. HOMESHAKE, which was created and is fronted by Canadian songwriter Peter Sagar, divulged into subjects of love and relationships, conveying melodramatic feelings through dreamy synthesizers and wavy guitar chords. In comparison to their prior releases, this album is more low key, with an emphasis on sound aesthetic over catchy tunes.
Starting with a slow one-minute introduction song, “Hello Welcome”, an R&B-style guitar solo over laid back electronic beats, represents the mixing pot of old and new sounds that make up HOMESHAKE’s style. The songs’ instrumentation range between an all synth and a full band set up. Sagar’s voice is gentle, often in falsetto, and with annunciation often difficult to understand.
“Call Me Up” was the first single released, building anticipation for the album in late 2016, and by far the easiest song to get into on the album. Mainlining a synth melody as the hook, the mid-tempo song is straightforward and diverges from the album’s drearier, more ambient songs. Along with it, “Serious” and “So She” were the most lively and among the best-written of the release. These songs demonstrated a solid balance in the group’s sound, grabbing the attention of the listener in a groovy laid back way.
The band erred on the side of experimentation: tracks had a heavy emphasis on ambient sounds and the layering of unique tones, underlying Sagar’s development as a producer. As interesting as it is to listen to on headphones, the songs don’t differentiate a lot rhythmically and could easily blend together, sounding almost like background music after a while.
The album’s title track, “Fresh Air”, represents the predominantly laid back tone of the rest of the release. Wind effects whistle in the background while jazzy seventh chords are held on guitar. The shakey timbre of Sagar’s jumps dances between high and low pitches, and is occasionally modified and lowered.This song, along with some of the slower tracks on the album, took me awhile to get into but turned out to have a lot of depth with regards to sound production and tonal composition.
As pointed out by Sinderlyn, the group’s label, the “songs were created to clear his (Sagar’s) listeners’ minds of negativity,” and in this aspect the slower songs do very well. All of the tracks on “Fresh Air” are easy going, and perfect for setting up the mood for a more intimate environment.
Aside from being an effective scene-setting device, there’s a lot of artistic merit and layers under the surface of the slower tracks on the album. The mixing and sound production allow for a cluster of different tones. The songwriting at times can coincide beautifully with the ambient sounds of sirens, gentle breezes, or modified voices, all of which are unexplored territory for typical musicians. Whether listening attentively through headphones or heard in the background through speakers, “Fresh Air” is offers a seductive experience in sound to the listener.