Groovy, catchy, Hatchie
Founder of the Australian, indie-rock outfit Babaganouj, Hatchie expands upon her Sugar & Spice EP with Keepsake. A ten-song collection of songs imbued with catchy hooks and soaring singing, the album finds itself reminiscing on the halcyon days of ‘80s and ‘90s pop. Harriette Pilbeam (nickname Hatchie) layers dulcet vocals and memorable melodies over a bed of synthesized sounds that would veer into synth-pop if not for her garage-rock roots. The result is impressive if not groundbreaking. With enough edge and emotion, selective instrumentation and balanced production, most of the tunes hit the mark.
“Not That Kind” introduces the album with a rising drum and synth combination that reappears throughout the set. Hatchie’s overdubbed voice cuts through the instrumentation and floats high above the mix as she sings a proclamation that is simultaneously proud and vulnerable. “I’m not that kind of girl to let it define me.” “Without A Blush” wades deeper into an 80’s feel. The bass and drum tandem push the verse forward with a brooding tone to be relieved by an airy chorus that contrasts nicely without disrupting the track’s flow.
Musical influences are on display throughout much of the album. A handful of tracks pay homage to acts like The Cranberries and Mazzy Star with their pretty melodies and ethereal vocals. “Her Own Heart,” “Obsessed,” “Kiss The Stars” and “Stay With Me” all evoke the zeitgeist of the ’90s in their own way. “Kiss The Stars” gently tells a potential love story with the help of piano sounds and a chiming guitar cadence. On “Obsessed,” the hook’s distorted vocals allow Hatchie to sing against her own verse, and when coupled with a basic synthesized riff, the tune transitions to pop. Further in that direction, “Stay With Me” lilts alongside a driving bass that becomes danceable midway through.
An ever-present, grinding, guitar riff carries the three-part “Unwanted Guest” into the anthemic hook and progression that Hatchie wisely lets dominate the song. Deliberately delivered, the vocals are overcome by a synthesized theme that crescendos in a wash of beats and motifs that seemingly drift off into space. Not to be outdone, “Secret” begins slowly but satisfyingly coalesces around a three-chord question, “baby can you keep a secret, a secret?”
The penultimate song of the group, “When I Get Out” brings it all together by fully realizing the album’s lyrical and musical character. A round, watery bass groove leads listeners into the best chorus and melody of the collection. Counter to the fluid flow of the accompaniment, the vocal hook—with its high/low, fast/slow dynamics—syncopates effortlessly in a blissful sing-along moment. “Keep” returns to Earth with its acoustically driven outro serving as a resolution to both the tune and album.
While technically Hatchie’s first LP venture, Keepsake sounds closer to the effort of a seasoned veteran who has honed her craft over a lifetime of musicianship. The individual tracks are distinct from one another in that no two songs sound like retreads of hers, or of other artists. Taken as a whole, the album bears a distinct signature in composition and mood with enough variety and reach to keep things interesting until the artist’s next attempt. Keepsake is a great album in its own right.