In The Shower
Homeshake is the project of Mac Demarco touring guitarist Peter Sagar. On his second album, In The Shower, the resemblances to Demarco are pretty obvious: the same icy, clean guitar melodies; the same minimal arrangements; and the same romantic lyricism shrouded in varying degrees of bizarre humor and musical slapstick. I’m not here to tell you that there’s some critical element to Homeshake’s music that really expands upon the Mac Demarco formula. It’s a bit weirder; the grooves are a bit more off-kilter, but overall Sagar and Demarco really seem to occupy the same sonic universe. At the same time, this album is way too good to be just a case of clever imitation. If you really dig Mac Demarco, but you wish he’d let the macabre insanity of his music videos seep a tiny bit more into his music, than In The Shower might be your favorite album of the year.
On “She Can’t Leave Me Alone Here Tonight,” the album begins with a thirty-second skit that sounds like it could have been ripped from a straight-to-VHS horror film. “Just try to relax,” a deep, ghostly voice implores over ambient guitar strumming and a heavy tape hiss. The skit stops abruptly, and the band counts off into the actual song, a dreamy number built on a dissonant guitar groove that still sounds oddly funky. Sagar’s vocals sound strained, like an adolescent attempt at a croon, but it works perfectly with the oddness of the music behind him. This entire record somehow manages to hit the pop music pleasure centers in your brain while being just a little out of tune, a little peculiar.
The next track, “Chowder,” exemplifies this technique lyrically. With a warm, slightly somber musical background, Sagar sings tender, romantic lyrics like, “We’ll close the window tonight / It’s too cold for you to go outside,” only to launch into a chorus in which he strangely refers to his lover as his “Chowder.” Sagar hides his sentimentality in oddball humor, but somehow he doesn’t come off as cold and ironic; he sounds innocent and playful.
That playful quality is all over In The Shower. “Chowder” ends with fifty seconds of eerie electric piano noodling that sounds like it came off the Forbidden Planet soundtrack. On “Cash Is Money” a synth, or perhaps a heavily whammy-pedaled guitar, goes haywire in the middle of a chorus, sounding like one of the Chipmunks freaking out on acid. The horror skits pop up a few more times. All of these goofs have an inviting effect; they make us feel like we’re in on Sagar’s joke.
The greatest strength of this album lies in limitation. Jack White often talked about the creative strategy he and Meg used in the White Stripes as one of limitation. He believed that with limited aesthetic options, they forced themselves to be more creative. With that philosophy of restriction in mind, Homeshake utilizes the same instrumentation and production techniques on every song on In The Shower, and it forces Sagar’s melodies and rhythms into simultaneously catchy and altogether strange territory.