Closer to Homeshake

Homeshake toes the line between public and private on new album

I know he’s everybody’s favorite hooligan, but I’ve never really been able to get into Mac DeMarco’s music. Sure, it’s pleasant, but that’s about where the honeymoon ends for me. There’s no movement in it -- it doesn’t particularly move me physically, emotionally or intellectually. It’s just, well, pleasant.

However, I do understand how his rambunctious toddler charm -- that playful personality of his -- has led to the widespread popular appeal of his music. So, when a close friend introduced me to Homeshake, the project of DeMarco’s ex-guitarist Peter Sagar, I was a little dismissive at first. I figured it would be pleasant indie rock, but not much more than that.

I was wrong.

Montreal's Homeshake retains some of the playful weirdness of DeMarco’s output, but it also offers movement. As you might expect, his least interesting songs stay within the slacker indie lane. Where his music really shines -- where it really moves -- is when he draws on R&B and dub.

“Give It to Me” is probably his biggest hit, and for good reason. But for all of its sex appeal, Sagar says it’s actually “a very sad song about not being able to communicate with a loved one.”

The plot is easy to lose in contemporary indie music’s trend toward vocal obscurantism, but I think his point is important, and it makes the song that much more interesting.

Mind you, “Give It to Me” was a single on the patchwork effort of his previous album, “Midnight Snack.” On Feb. 3 of this year, Sagar released a new album called “Fresh Air,” which homes in on particular sonic themes from “Midnight Snack” and fleshes them out a bit more.

Homeshake’s characteristic wobble (he uses a low pass filter to create an auto-wah effect, he says) and occasional vocal octave shifter are still there, but guitar is featured a little less prominently and he ups his rhythmic and vocal R&B game substantially. The result of Sagar’s self-described effort of “not necessarily trying to do anything in particular”? A more cohesive collection of songs that verge on the ironic and belie the private sadness in which they are steeped.

According to Sagar, the Homeshake moniker came from a secret handshake that his friend taught him. To me, it offers up the perfect metaphor, as it’s an illustrative example of the complicated simultaneity of the public and private in his music. And it’s that deceiving gulf between distance and intimacy -- between Sagar and his audience -- that makes his music so much more interesting, so much more moving.

Peter Sagar brings Homeshake to the Hideout on Friday, April 7. Spooky Cigarette opens. This show is sold out, so hopefully you already got tickets.

Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. He now plays in the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.

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