“It’s still four o’clock in the morning” and Peter Sagar still doesn’t feel like he can put his “head back down.” As he paces around his Montreal-based home studio tinkering with the inner workings of his mind, Sagar brings his musings to life through his music. For an introverted homebody, it’s no surprise that Sagar, more commonly known by his stage name HOMESHAKE, finds comfort in making art from the setting of his minimalist home.
HOMESHAKE’s most recent album, “Helium,” was recorded and mixed entirely from Sagar’s apartment. Doing so, according to the artist, allowed Sagar to be more accommodating about which hour of the day was most convenient for him to record or provided him with the most inspiration; he later found that he enjoyed working through the silent part of the night, because it offered him the most attention to detail.
The woozy sound of “Helium” directly reflects the atmosphere Sagar immerses himself in while he creates. Similar to Sagar, listeners will discover themselves transported into a dream-like state upon hearing his relaxing, smooth-sounding music.
Illustrating the scene for his audience from beginning to end, Sagar follows a linear timeline for the progression of his tracks. For example, the intro song, “Early,” paints the picture of an early morning. The distant birds chirping, followed by a soft ascent into a slow instrumental, feels similar to the stretching you do in bed after you turn off your alarms and brace yourself for the day.
Upon waking up, Sagar does what most of us do out of automatic instinct: He reaches for his phone and starts scrolling. Sagar touches on this connectivity in a number of songs, especially “Anything at All.” Singing, “Everyone I know / Lives in my cellphone,” he communicates the dissatisfaction he experiences from continually conversing with the outside world through a screen he holds in the palm of his hand.
“I should probably put this down / I don’t need a thing right now / Tell me that I’m not allowed / Pull me out this goddamn crowd / Find us something else to do / Anything, just me and you / Anything at all,” he sings. Whereas most of us crave a spot among the masses, Sagar romanticizes the idea of nonconformity.
Along with alluding to the ways technology leads to isolation, Sagar underscores his human foibles in the song “Like Mariah.” Fantasizing about the glory that comes with fortune and fame, the musician ponders what life would be like if only he “could sing like Mariah,” a reference to Mariah Carey, a vocal inspiration of his.
Next, “Helium” leads into “Heartburn,” an interlude just over 30 seconds long that sends a wave of anxiety down your spine. Sagar describes it as the noise that would accompany physical heartburn, and it represents the “musical themes of the preceding and following tracks.”
The next song, “All Night Long,” starts off with the same eerie mood and transitions into piano and calming vocals in front of a luminous background. According to Sagar, he wrote the piece while recalling the feeling of not wanting to attend a party and longing to be around the people you’re most comfortable with instead.
If it wasn’t apparent, the “Helium” artist has certain anti-social tendencies, which often lead him to rely on his girlfriend, Salina Ladha, for bouts of support in extroverted situations. “Salu’s quiet in the middle, holding on and feeling tired,” he sings about her. Ladha, like Sager, is prone to flagging in the prolonged company of others, and in this instance, at a party, she’s working to muster the energy to stay and enjoy the company of their friends a little longer.
In addition to her role as Sager’s social support, Ladha has a significant hand in HOMESHAKE music. On top of making the cover art for his albums, she acts as his biggest fan, source of motivation and a muse for his music.
In an Instagram post on Sagar’s personal account on the day of his album’s release, he captioned the illustration for “Helium”: “thanks so so much to my sweetheart @salinagram for the beautiful artwork, there wouldn’t be homeshake albums without her.”
A few tracks after “All Night Long,” Sager includes an interlude, titled “Salu Says Hi.” After jokingly recording his girlfriend saying “hi,” “hello” and “hey” into his microphone, Sagar modulates the voices and mashes them up in different pitches. Seeing as it’s toward the end of the album, the track acts as a wake-up call in the midst of several wistful songs to remind audiences to stay awake.
Sagar’s precise use of instrumentals, synthesizers, kicks and snares allow “Helium,” as a whole, to stitch together beautifully. The textures Sagar implements shine through the album more than any of his previous music. His lyrical depth and the layers of his production radiate effortlessly, making “Helium” one of the best albums to jam out to during quiet moments of contemplation.
Whether he is trying to remove himself from reality, find peace in solitude or indulge in fantasy, Sagar has created an oasis for listeners to explore in “Helium.”