By Mitch Britton
I first heard of HOMESHAKE after watching our favorite indie poster-boy Mac DeMarco give them a shout out during a 2014 Salad Days Q & A. At the time, I didn’t realize that the band was in fact the solo effort of Peter Sagar, Mac’s longtime lead guitarist for live performances. Once I figured out this affiliation, I was instantly intrigued and downloaded In The Shower, Sagar’s first LP which was released last August.
Musically, the album is somewhat reminiscent of early Mac DeMarco recordings, but has its own very distinct flavor. While Mac’s sound is defined by warbly lead guitar parts and his prominent croon, Sagar’s style is much more subtle. His songs are intricately structured with warped vocal samples, jazzy guitar chords and mellow synths sprinkled over light drum beats, while his voice rarely breaks from a timid falsetto. All these elements make for great, catchy tracks and an overall very chill listening experience.
This same subtlety and mellowness carries into HOMESHAKE’s newest release Midnight Snack, an album that manages to be even more chill than In The Shower. Sagar proved his keyboard prowess in brief moments throughout In The Shower, but here we see his love for synth take over. The album is chock-full-of interesting loops and keyboard sounds that drive the songs with a twinkling electronic flavor. Most of the album’s percussion is heard in the form of gentle drum machine beats, which give the songs a crispness unseen in Sagar’s previous work. The entire album has a very warm R&B feel, with the beats and keyboards providing the body of most of the tracks, though there are bits of echoey guitar and analog drums here and there.
One of Midnight Snack’s highlights is “Heat” – the second track after an introduction of pitch-bent vocals and strange effects. The song is irresistibly catchy, with Sagar singing about the coldness of his homeland, Montreal, with a sparse vocal melody that sounds instantly familiar. The track pretty much sets the tone for the whole album: relaxed, mid-tempo, and subtly groovy with drum machine beats, clean basslines and slight synth chords.
Another great track is the single “Give It To Me,” which sees Pete playing with pitch-bending and a shimmering synth loop. There’s some really nice sounding guitar lines thrown in and his lyrics on love are delivered in a sweet, high-pitched harmony. The simplicity and great use of melody makes it one of my favorites on the album.
Other notable tracks are “Midnight Snack” – a sauntering, beachy gem featuring a pretty blend of guitars and synths that complement each other perfectly, and “Love Is Only A Feeling” – a sleepy, somber number defined by lazy, echoey strums and a nice ride cymbal rhythm. Also worth checking out is “Under The Sheets,” which features some female vocals after the chorus which are oddly similar to “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey. Seriously, listen to the two back-to-back, it’s the same part. Of course, the whole album is definitely worth a listen through, especially if you’re trying to wind down after a long day.
It’s hard not to see HOMESHAKE as a project affiliated with the mighty Mac DeMarco (who currently has indie music by the balls) but with Midnight Snack, Sagar further pushes his own distinct sound – a jingly, chilled out blend of pitch-bending, R&B funkiness, and clever guitar work. I’ll be looking forward to the next one for sure.