Hatchie - Keepsake - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Hatchie - Keepsake

by Tim Sentz Rating:7 Release Date:2019-06-21
Hatchie - Keepsake
Hatchie - Keepsake

Of the various dream pop records to come out within the last decade, a majority have implemented that traditional soft-spoken female vocalist coupled with hazy not-quite-shoegaze aesthetic repeatedly. It’s become a standard of the genre, something that classic acts like Mazzy Star and Slowdive perfected in the 90s. But as time moves, so must dream pop, and with it comes a new generation of homages and imitators like Beach House, Alvvays, and Japanese Breakfast. There’s nothing wrong with it - all of those artists make wonderful tunes, but now in 2019 we get something with a tiny bit more edge to it: Hatchie.

Gaining attention early last year, Harriette Pilbeam’s love-lorn dream pop project Hatchie has taken the past and turned it into something new for the end of the decade. Her Sugar & Spice EP made it very clear what you’re getting with her music: affectionate pop. Pilbeam’s lyrics strongly tap into a mainstream pop approach - the kind of thing you’d expect from larger acts to focus on. With that in mind, her proper debut LP Keepsake seems ripe for over-exposure this year. It’s fun, poppy, dreamy, with a positive and upbeat feeling to it. In a time when so many things are dark and brooding, Keepsake can feel like a bright sunshiny spot on a pitch black evening.

Pilbeam’s deliberate on Keepsake, such as the opening cut “Not That Kind,” and she doesn’t spin her wheels on the record often. It’s not so much a break-up record, more of a direct love letter to that special someone. Beach House’s Victoria Legrand normally keeps her lyrics far more abstract and vague, fragments that can convey emotion without giving too many details. Hatchie isn’t like that at all, she’s clearly stating “all I ever wanted, all I ever needed, was you.” Even if she utilizes a lot of the same instrumentation and synths that her comrades do, Hatchie is more direct, “if I could kiss you one more time, would it make everything alright,” she sings on “Without a Blush.” There’s no vagueness about that.

It’s this juxtaposition of dream pop and directness that sets Hatchie apart from various other tourists of the genre. It can also make Keepsake feel very one-dimensional. By the time “Obsessed” comes around, the schtick feels a tad old. This diary of lovely odes feels like a pastiche of 90s originators only blenderized here. It’s the same tendencies you’ll find with Fazerdaze, Jay Som, and even Snail Mail, but with more fluff and queasiness, that sometimes leans straight cheesy. The expectation for Hatchie may have been too high, and that instead of pulling all of the formulas together to make a dream pop classic, Keepsake just feels like an okay debut album with more potential.

This isn’t to say that Keepsake is devoid of talent. Hatchie’s vocals are blissful, it’s one of the many key ingredients that make Keepsake enjoyable. Her penchant for 80s synth-pop is overused, a lot of the same synths are used over and over, but it works, like on “Unwanted Guest” as it parallels the guitars nicely. Keepsake is a good record, but it’s held back by its minimal direction in content, relying heavily on the genre to borrow multiple established formulas to build its core. It will no doubt launch Hatchie into a more respected circle of indie musicians, and she may even find herself opening for Charli XCX or Billie Eilish someday. But the hope is that the next step in the Hatchie discography is a little less predictable, and a bit more daring.

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