Dream pop to be sad to or score a Netflix drama with.
The beauty of running one of the most interesting podcasts around music creation out there (Song Exploder) is that you get to have some amazing guests to come play with you. That helps elevate Hrishikesh Hirway’s soft and understated vocals and melodies into something you could easily hear on a Netflix drama.
This entire album reminds me of Alex Wong and his many projects. Both Wong and Hirway have a wonderfully clean vocal delivery that refuses to hang around. Both also create chamber pop that focuses on the softer, sadder and introspective side of music. Best of all – both also pull it off exceptionally well. For Hrishikesh Hirway though, his vocals take a backseat to his ability to craft an impactful melody and change the production around to emphasise the drama. That drama could be the up close and personal overbled piano melody of “There’s Too Much Room”, where Hirway’s lower register follows the pitter-patter piano in unison. It could be the dramatic electro-tom drums and electronic pulses of the closing minutes of “Stillness”. Each track has its own personality and places something different to the fore.
Guests certainly help. Jay Som appears for a lovely indie folk duet on “Home” which has rich, warm guitars and strings. Baths bring their hollow piano vibes and distant electronica for the dreamy and celestial “Seams”. “Memory Palace” is a gutwrenching ballad with Jenny Owen Youngs. Its infectious sway and dusty acoustics are the kinds of things an indie film score dreams of. Possibly the jewel in the crown is Yo-Yo Ma’s stunning contributions to “Between There and Here”. The bustling string arrangement crowds over the chill-out beats and Hrishikesh Hirway’s soft and soothing voice. It feels like the track is overwhelming itself and the weight of all the strings pulls that heavy weight onto the listener. It is a stunning piece that is given the solo live treatment as a closing bonus track too. It’s oddly one of Hirway’s emotional vocal deliveries too, making me wonder if there’s more range hidden in the mix than we might believe.
When I first bought and heard “Rooms I Used to Call My Own” I enjoyed it but something didn’t click. I think that was down to the lack of huge tempo adjustments. I just needed time. With each listen, the release has grown on me every time and now I’ve found it rather comforting. There’s a solemn numbness to the music that I didn’t appreciate initially that I now find cathartic and Hrishikesh Hirway taps into that feeling perfectly. Definitely file under “grower, not a shower” – don’t underestimate its staying power.
Recommended track: Between There and Here (feat. Yo-Yo Ma)
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