Since splitting from Mac DeMarco’s touring band, Peter Sagar (aka HOMESHAKE) has had little trouble developing a unique style within the ill-defined world of slacker rock. Fresh Air is no exception, expanding on the synth-led, dreamlike sounds of 2015’s Midnight Snack by incorporating a wider array of moods and influences. Notably, this manifests in a surprisingly upbeat manner (for HOMESHAKE at least), with the groove of ‘Every Single Thing’ and the near-danceable ‘Serious’ resembling R&B songs filtered through a haze of cannabis smoke.
However, the end-of-the-night vibe is undoubtedly still dominant throughout the album, largely down to Sagar’s wistful guitar style and hypnotic, jazz-influenced chord progressions. On the whole, Fresh Air is most successful when these are showcased; sombre, stripped back title track ‘Fresh Air’ and the surreal layering and panning of multiple guitar parts in the haunting ‘Getting Down Pt II’ serve as evidence.
“R&B songs filtered through a haze of cannabis smoke”
Beyond stylistic experimentation, Fresh Air is also vocally more confident, with Sagar’s singing generally placed higher in the mix than in previous releases. This unfortunately sees mixed results, with the tuneful falsetto of ‘Not U’ on one end of the spectrum and the grating, slightly nasal delivery of ‘Timing’ on the other. However, occasionally questionable vocals are certainly the only thing in this album that can be described as “grating”, with the warm-yet-crisp overall production style strangely satisfying to the ears; the guitar and synth textures alone feel almost like a massage of the eardrums.
On the whole, the expansion of the HOMESHAKE sound shows Sagar is moving in the right direction, however Fresh Air suffers some loss of cohesion and consistency as a result. This being said, it won’t stop me from sticking the album on at 4 in the morning, even if it means skipping the odd track.