Homeshake: Fresh Air album review

Homeshake's new album: Fresh Air. Photo from Creative Commons.

Homeshake’s new album: Fresh Air. Photo from Creative Commons.

Homeshake released their fourth and latest album a couple weeks (Feb. 3) ago, titled “Fresh Air”.  Indeed, the album can be described as such, if one were to look at the album that way; this work highly contrasts with previous titles in terms of the general tone and instrumentality of the album.  

Those unfamiliar with Homeshake’s work would probably be adverse to this album.  If this was my first experience with the group, I certainly would never explore with them further.  However, those who are more inclined to their music or appreciate the more modern lo-fi movement in general will find something to enjoy here.  

In previous releases, tight beats and jams characterize their music; even in their last album “Midnight Snack”, which used similar techniques and instrumentation as this album (mostly in the use of synths and soft drum beats), the composition was much more melodical and the tunes more catchy and enjoyable.  

There aren’t many memorable tracks in Fresh Air as there were in preceding albums.  The tone of the album is that of a slowed, drugged out type of experience, but not one that is particularly enjoyable.  

There are a few tracks that are salvageable in this work, especially in the latter half of the album.  Although much of the first half of the album is forgettable and can be discarded without much sacrifice, the second part has quite a few enjoyable songs worth jammin’ out to.

“Fresh Air” starts out with two tracks serving as one: “Hello Welcome” and “Call Me Up” are a welcome introduction to the tracklist, with synths and light instrumentals keeping up a neat tune in the background.  Despite the lackluster performance in the first portion of the album, these tunes are definitely worth listening to.

The second track, “Not U,” is not particularly interesting in the slightest.  Synths keep an extremely simplistic, slowed-down melody going throughout the song, with lyrics plastered on top.  

Fortunately, the album picks up again with the fourth track, “Every Single Thing.”  This duet-based melody uses the synths much more effectively than the previous song, which create a much more interesting melody rather than a simple beat.

As it would turn out the track was merely the silver lining to what precedes a mediocre playlist for the next fifteen minutes or so.  “Wrapping Up” makes an ineffective use of the synths so ubiquitous in this album similar to that of “Not U” and the track is easily forgettable.  The chorus in this song has a tune in it which may get stuck in one’s head for more than a few seconds, but that is the best that can be said about this track.

“Getting Down Pt. II” becomes the first song in this album to make use of the band rather than the synths, it is quite disappointing to say the least.  There is a portion of the song that makes an interesting combination of the synths and the band that creates a weird cascading effect, but that’s about it.

“Timing” establishes an actual melody again, but it is so resemblant to 2000s-era pop music that it is more nauseating than it is pleasing to hear.  

Again the band chimes in on “TV Volume”.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about the track is that the vocalist sings an octave deeper than he usually does.  There is not much to see (or hear) here.

Finally, in “Khmlwugh” the consumer of the music is once again offered a sonically pleasing (i.e. having a pleasant melody) experience.  A song, interesting in that I had to add its title into the text editor’s dictionary, also offers a decent tune to hum along to.  Weak drum beats play in part of the background, but otherwise the melody is composed of synths.  Some interesting voice alteration is added to give this song some extra depth.

Thus the previous track brings us to the title track, “Fresh Air.”  And to be quite honest, it’s a pretty jazzy track, and it is reminiscent of their second album, “In the Shower”.  Wind sounds swirl in the background, probably to emphasize the name of this track.  Sadly, it is sonically underwhelming; although use of the band is partaken in, the instrumentals are quite boring.

Ironically enough, after the title track is when things in this album really start to pick up again.  “Serious” is another great synth-based tune that picks the listener up from the slog that was established in the previous track.  

In “So She”, the band makes their first sonically pleasing debut in the album.  The song is mostly a simple few chords repeated, but the bass keeps the background instrumentation more interesting.   However, although this track sounds good with its groovy bass line and clear vocals, it isn’t interesting– it follows a simple formula that applies for most modern music.

This brings us to the next track, “This Way”, which is an interesting track that combines thematic elements from 2000s pop music, soul music and lo-fi.  Indeed, this track is what the album could have (and certainly should have been): an interesting fusion of sounds that capitalizes on the flexibility of synth-based music, with a decent tune to boot.  The song then blends in with the final track, “Signing Off”, which is merely a little measure-long synth diddy.

In general, this album was similar to their preceding one, “Midnight Snack”, which was probably their best.  That album, much like this one, was heavily synth based with a few tracks using the band sparingly.  Unlike this album however, “Snack” was able to use the synths to create interesting beats layered on top of each other to create an awesome lo-fi sound.  “Fresh Air” could’ve been something that lived up to this album, while being different in its own right.  If only the music was more complex.

And that is where this album falls flat.  

Aside from a few tracks in this playlist, “Fresh Air”’s songs are simplistic: the synth is rarely layered with the band or other synths to create a more full tone the way “Snack” is.  So this is where the music falls flat. The songs don’t need to sound like they do in “Snack”, they just need more full instrumentation, and in some cases, a bit more of a pleasing melody.

As a fan of Homeshake, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by this album; it had so much potential as another great work by the band.  It’s rather mediocre overall sadly, which earns it a five out of ten.  However, Pitchfork was much more generous with their score, giving “Fresh Air” a 7.3.  If you like lo-fi music or Homeshake, you *might* like this album; it is available on Apple Music, bandcamp or from Omnian Music Group for $9.99.