By Thomas Dunlap
Release Date: February 15, 2019
Released on Feb. 15, Helium is Canadian musician Peter Sagar’s fourth album. Under the name Homeshake, Sagar creates genre-bending music that is a romantic synthesis of smooth R&B and sharp indie-rock, all coated with a thick layer of satisfying synthesizers and pitch controlled vocals.
Helium is the apogee of a gradual metamorphosis exhibited throughout Sagar’s discography. Beginning with the grounded and guitar heavy grooves of In The Shower, Sagar’s first album, the music slowly shifted towards a slower and cloudier style becoming more ambient and atmospheric with each installation. By Sagar’s 2017 album, Fresh Air, almost all guitar and traditional indie-rock elements had evaporated into ethereal and emotional synthesizers and sound effects.
With hardly any stringed instrument present in any of the 13 tracks, Helium is no exception to this transpiration. However, it seems that when these familiar elements were removed, nothing was left to fill the instrumental gap (or in this case, canyon) created by their absence. The result is a collection of several painfully slow tracks that are unadorned and uninteresting. Not only are these tracks arctic in their tempo, they lack uniqueness and individuality. Tracks like “Other Than” and “All Night Long” are an ambient and boring mess, inspiring nothing other than a craving for the companionship of a soft pillow. The atmospheric synthesizers that surmise most of the songs are like a gothic cathedral—massive and impressively beautiful, but vacant, hollow, and despondently somber on the inside. The vocals are filtered to a point of near incomprehensibility and are pitched far too high auditory comfort. Helium is also plagued with five instrumental interludes that are indistinguishable, unremarkable, and unworthy of note.
The few acceptable tracks, such as the single “Like Mariah” and “(Secret Track),” are unsurprisingly the most guitar influenced songs, with the former featuring a funky and infectious bass line. These tracks have the strongest connection to the clever combination of bedroom synth-pop and jangly indie-rock that Sagar perfected in his preceding albums Fresh Air and Midnight Snack. It is unfortunate that the other tracks did not accompany them in this way.
Usually upon the conclusion of a Homeshake album I am left satisfied yet deeply yearning for more, but by the end of Helium, I was deathly bored and looking forward to what was up next in my queue. This ultimately forgettable album is the only black mark of Sagar’s otherwise distinguished career.