The nonspecific genre of “indie music” really doesn’t tell a lot about the artists within the genre. They could fall anywhere on the spectrum from the sugar sweet confection of MARINA to the razor-edged angst of Twenty One Pilots.
On his newest album Helium, Homeshake struggles to find a comfortable spot along that spectrum, attempting to cover too much ground at once.
As harsh as it may sound, the best parts of Helium are the tracks without vocals. The opener “Early” and the interlude “Trudi and Lou” ooze supple serenity with graceful ease. Songs without too many differing, clashing elements are the clear peaks of the album.
After the opener, Helium gets off to a rocky start with two of the weakest songs placed at the top of the track list. “Anything at All” glides over a soft, airy melody, but the snare drum beat overwhelms the rhythm. “Like Mariah” suffers a similar issue, with too intense of a bass riff interrupting a calm, collected synth track. Both tracks sound like they consist of several scrapped demos cut up and pasted together, with the songs trying to simultaneously be pop, rock and jazz.
The album finds a bit of a stride — albeit a brief one — halfway through, with the tracks “Just Like My” and “Nothing Could Be Better,” perhaps simply because that’s where the vocals are at their most audible. The rest of the album forces the listener to struggle to decipher the intentional whispers.
“Just Like My” floats over a silky, pitter-pattering rhythm so relaxing it nearly lulls you to sleep (in a good way). The pleasing high-pitched vocal range exhibited on the chorus of “Nothing” makes you wonder why lead singer Peter Sagar restrains himself on the rest of the album.
“Salu Says Hi” is a brief, 1:27-long audio of what sounds like tiny, humanoid creatures awakening in a bizarre, confusing attempt to regain the listener’s attention. Shortly after is “Couch Cushion,” another track without vocals, but a fairly uneventful one, with a minute of just ambient noise.
“Another Thing” stands out as one of the more memorable tracks, though that doesn’t say much given the average of quality as the tracklist as a whole. A fairly basic-sounding effort, this sounds somewhat similar to radio-friendly indie crossovers.
As a project, Helium comes off as trying far too hard to be weird or edgy. It becomes irritating, even obnoxious to listen to the album in one sitting. The vocals on the remaining tracks are limited to select portions of the songs, and they’re often too quiet to make out over the dizzying, overproduced beats.
While the album has its few bright spots, Helium is a muddled, confused album that struggles to successfully deliver a cohesive, confident piece of work to its audience.