Rarely does a record evoke such a strong connection to a physical time and space as the latest release from lo-fi, indie pop act Homeshake. Helium’s stirring sense of sunny loneliness paints a clear picture of a casual, aimless stroll through a suburban, sidewalk-laden woods on the first warm day of the year.
There’s a freedom, an effervescence about the experience, and while you may not actually be the only other person out walking, you’re totally alone with your thoughts and the sounds of wildlife waking up from winter’s slumber, the gentle breeze. There are records that conjure up reminders of when and where in your life you were when you first hear them (Underoath’s Define the Great Line will always bring to mind bike rides through central Illinois because of this), but Peter Sagar’s Homeshake has truly evocative songwriting that results in a record about transforming the listener with visual tunes.
To be fair, Helium is much more than visual sonic storytelling; this is also quite a fun, relaxed dance record. Homeshake’s previous airy synthpop has shifted towards a wider array of styles. This feels tangentially related to Toro Y Moi’s and Neon Indian’s chillwave and Tame Impala’s psychedelic disco, though there’s some R&B in the mix here, too. Songs like the buoyant “Like Mariah” and the relaxed dance fare of “Nothing Could Be Better” showcase the wide range on display, and Sagar’s tenor is a perfect fit. He’s not fully disengaged like many of his contemporaries, but he cuts through the haze just enough to keep the listener interested during this visual stroll through the woods.
Like even the best long walks, things feel a bit aimless near the end, though that kind of seems like the point. Homeshake’s focus on loneliness works to reveal an added depth to even the more meandering bits, and the various synth-led interludes, besides being wonderful, play into that disorienting sense of pleasant despair. Helium is a record for the introverts, the pensive, and the playful. It’s also really damn good.