By: Sasha Kalra (@sashakalra) –
Ryan Hemsworth is a name on the rise. The Halifax native has been steadily gaining influence in the last few years and with his new album, Guilt Trips, out October 22nd via Last Gang Records, he looks to plant himself firmly in the ears and minds of the masses.
He has a diverse back catalogue and has remixed the likes of Lana Del Rey, Frank Ocean, Grimes, Migos and A$AP Rocky. He’s also toured alongside RL Grime, Baauer and Cyril Hahn in recent months. Diplo notoriously called him “One of the best DJs with the worst names in the music industry right now,” and he can seemingly do no wrong.
On Guilt Trips, Hemsworth’s unique brands of smooth, bass-filled productions are perfectly complemented by a unique range of guests, including Sinead Harnett, Lofty 305, Baths, Tinashe, Haleek Maul and Kitty.
The album opens with “Small + Lost”, which serves as a powerful introduction to the album. The track features the funky UK-based singer Sinead Harnett’s vocals, who also provided the vocals for Disclosure’s hit, “Boiling”. The result is a powerful, tone-setting introduction that gives the listener a taste of what to expect on this album. Hemsworth has previously expressed his desire to work on more R&B-type songs, and Harnett’s strong female vocals are congruent with that direction.
“Against a Wall” featuring Miami-based singer, Lofty 305, follows it, which sounds very similar to a song he released earlier this year titled “Perfectly”. Both songs are incredibly moody and laced with raw emotion. If the first track was a punch in the face than “Against a Wall” is distinctly smoother and much more of a pat on the back.
After listening to some of his older work, notably the Last Words EP, it’s quite clear that video games have a big influence on his music.
The third track, “Weird Lie”, is where you get drawn into the virtual, video game influenced part of the album. The unique sampling reminds you of something you might hear in a Pokemon or Zelda game on an old N64 console. The track is something that plays as the main character in an anime series reaches his end goal. He’s fought long and hard, endured hardships and sacrificed his personal well-being, and as he approaches the final boss and gets ready to finally overcome whatever it is that’s been impeding him all this time, the beginning of “Weird Lie” would fade in. It moves up and down, the notes are reflective and at no point does it ever let up. It’s one of the stand-out songs on the record.
“Still Cold” represents the low point of the album in terms of tempo and moodiness. Hemsworth’s music can be very moody and it can elicit those kinds of reactions from listeners. This track features Baths who sings about someone being cold “like Taylor Swift”.
“Avec Vous” and “Happiness & Dreams Forever” both feature forgo featuring a guest vocalist and are both all about showcasing the artist and his ability to seamlessly transition between styles and tempo ranges.
The seventh track, “Yaeko Mitamura Is Lonely” is titled after an anime character with flowing red hair. Yaeko’s character is a naïve 18-year-old who works in her father’s restaurant. She ends up joining a band that compromises her relationship and she her father forces her to choose between her love life and her musical passion. This track personifies Yaeko’s struggle as tribal sounding bass lines come to the fore alongside endless whistling. The album starts on a high in terms of tempo, slows down and then picks back up towards the end. This track represents the point where it begins to explode.
Guilt Trips has a seemingly underlying tone of self-exploration. “Ryan Must be Destroyed” is a curiously-titled track that gives you the feeling of impending evil. The spooky synths combine with a slew of trap-like drums to produce an eclectic end product.
The album closes with “One For Me”, which features Tinashe and “Day/Night/Sleep System” which features Haleek Maul and Kitty. It is by far the most commercial sounding piece on the record and it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear it on the radio in the coming weeks. There is a notable chemistry between Hemsworth and Tinashe as he remixed her song “Boss” last year to much acclaim and her smooth, sultry voice acts as the perfect foil.
In sum, Guilt Trips is a strong album for a promising Canadian artist. Last Gang has a history of producing quality Canadian electronic music including Metric, Chromeo and Purity Ring, and while it would be hard to nail down a specific genre at play here, it’s mainly electronic with influences from the hip hop and R&B spectrum. But don’t let these subcategories fool you though as we’re talking about a producer who successfully shoehorned Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s hit J-pop song, “Candy Candy” in the middle of a recent set.
Hemsworth’s diverse range is fully displayed throughout Guilt Trips and its release has been well worth the wait. Don’t be surprised if Hemsworth becomes a serious contender for next year’s Polaris Music Prize.
Essential Tracks: “One For Me”, “Yaeko Mitamura Is Lonely” and “Weird Lie”.