2019 is already off to a strong start with its new releases. Sharon Van Etten, James Blake and Chaka Khan have all opened the year with outstanding new material. Purveyor of off-kilter, lo-fi synth-pop, HOMESHAKE joins the roost with his new album Helium. Formerly living the hectic life playing guitar for Mac DeMarco (until 2014), Peter Sagar’s follow-on solo project reflects that his life-approach is more laid back than the one that DeMarco’s schedule demanded.
Helium continues the precedent set by his previous four albums: THE HOMESHAKE TAPE, In The Shower, Midnight Snack and Fresh Air. Slow jams are always the order of the day at the HOMESHAKE table with an often-added psych-rock edge. What separates him from his contemporaries, such as Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, is the greater emphasis his music puts on his 90’s R&B and pop influences. This Mac DeMariah Carey flavour is apparent throughout the new album and exemplified by the track ‘Just Like My’.
There’s an alluring sweetness to a lot of HOMESHAKE’s work. You could hear Mariah herself singing ‘Just Like My’, but what’s particularly interesting about HOMESHAKE is his songs often have an askew quality; Helium takes this to another level than his previous work. Previous albums have always had their idiosyncratic moments (see Midnight Snack’s ‘Real Love’ and Fresh Air’s ‘Khmlwugh’) but Helium is peppered far more regularly with head-tilt moments.
HOMESHAKE manages to arrest your attention with very singular note choices and instrumentation decisions. Where others zig, he zags. Where others may have used a Rhodes, he delves into the untouched depths of his Prophet settings. ‘All Night Long’ may share a title with the Lionel Richie classic but it couldn’t be further from it sonically.
There’s a humility to HOMESHAKE that is both reflected in his music and his stage presence. It’s been known for people at gigs to mistake him for a roadie (read: I mistook him for a roadie at his show at Gorilla in 2017). He cuts a modest figure, someone who doesn’t have a hint of ego even though he’s a very unique songwriter. The sense you get is he’s a dude who simply loves the craft and the end result of his creations, but remains heart-warmingly crowd-shy. It’s ironic because his rare live performances are flawless.
It’s a shame that Sagar doesn’t tour more, but this is a golden opportunity to see one of the more interesting acts on the circuit this year.