Editors’ NotesHelium represents many firsts for HOMESHAKE, the indie/electronic/R&B project of multi-instrumentalist and former Mac DeMarco guitarist Peter Sagar. It was his first time recording all the music himself at his Montreal home studio. Sagar also pushed the limits of his voice, unfurling an impressive falsetto (a homage to his favorite singer, Mariah Carey). Another shift was attitudinal, leaning toward more upbeat themes and tones. Grooves like “Nothing Could Be Better” and “Another Thing” blur the lines between electronic, R&B, and indie. Helium is slow jams for introverts. “I made a lot of really sad songs before, and I just wanted to make some more positive ones,” he tells Apple Music. “Hopefully people can take a little bit of positivity away. I'd like that.” Sagar goes through Helium track by track with Apple Music, revealing the stories and inspirations behind each song.
“Early” “I like my records to feel like a linear piece of time. Starting at the beginning, like in the early morning, made sense. There are birds chirping and a soft melody. I don't usually work in the morning, but I did actually write that part in the morning. It was, you know, honest.”
“Anything at All” “My process isn't specific or predetermined, a lot of it just sort of comes together as I go. I don't necessarily sit down and think, ‘I want to make a song like this.’ That was a very old song—I wrote that one after my previous record came out, and then it was just sort of sitting around. There was maybe like six or seven instrumentals, and it was one of the couple that made the cut.”
“Like Mariah” “I was daydreaming about what my life would be like if I had the same voice as Mariah Carey. The reason I sing with a falsetto, or a high vocal range, is that I really love to listen to, and I have a lot of admiration for, voices like that. She's all-encompassing: ‘Heartbreaker,’ The Emancipation of Mimi. I like a lot of the Jermaine Dupri productions, that whole era.”
“Heartburn” “It's like the musical themes of the preceding and following tracks, mixed together with what heartburn feels like. I get that pretty bad sometimes. I generally don't travel without Tums on me. I probably should go to the doctor, but I changed my diet. It kind of helps, but there's no avoiding it sometimes.”
“All Night Long” “I wrote the softer, main piano line of the chorus before I made the verse with some more spookier chords in it. One of the bonuses of recording digitally, instead of having to record everything as it goes on tape, is moving stuff around. That one had a lot of cutting and splicing before I figured out the final arrangement. That part of the record is like a specific time when I was playing in New York and I was hanging out after the show. We were chatting, having a really good time, till it just looked like Salu [Peter’s partner] was gonna pass out because she was sleepy. It was a nice moment with people that I love.” “Trudy and Lou” and “Just like My” “Trudy and Lou are my grandparents on my mother's side. [On the “Just like My” lyric "I can't remember any damn things, I'm just like my oma"] 'Oma' is Dutch for 'grandmother.' I had been spending time with my grandmother, and I was sort of seeing myself turn into her, a little too soon. She's like 99 years old and I'm 30, so I should be able to remember basic things more often.”
“Nothing Could Be Better” “That's another one of the older ones. I was still using the same drum machine (Roland TR-08) I was using on my previous record. I like those handclaps.”
“Other Than” “I've got really bad reading habits. I'll read a few books from one author, and then I won't read for several years. I read like a quarter of [Haruki Murakami’s] Norwegian Wood, and then that's when I stopped. I can't remember why. I was trying to get back into reading at the time and I was finding it very difficult. I can't read in a car, it kind of makes me carsick, so it stops me from being able to read on tour or anything. And then it's just so easy for me to fall out of the habit once I get it.”
“Salu Says Hi” "Salu was walking past as I had my microphone on, and I recorded her saying 'Hi' and 'Hello' and 'Hey' for a couple minutes to get a nice level. I then cut it up and made the song. She's such an important part of my life, so having her voice on the album means a lot to me."
“Another Thing” “I was walking around with my sweetie, feeling sort of introspective about the way that I live. It's kind of a vague song. During my previous releases, there were no lyrics available to anybody, so I'm not used to answering very specific questions. I never really liked the idea of my lyrics being read outside of hearing them in the context of the song. I apparently was not able to get away with that anymore.”
“Couch Cushion” “It’s a soft piano piece, kind of like a lullaby, which was a working title. I generally am on the couch until I realize that I'm fully like half-asleep and ready to go to bed.”
“(Secret Track)” “You know on a CD, where there would just be an unnamed track, and it would just be there after like however long of silence, and you'd only be able to listen to it if you really waited for it? I used to really like that when I was a kid, but I didn't see it really working well with streaming and stuff. So I just called it that instead.”