“It made sense to me to call the record that, at a time when I’m going to probably end up with a lot of keepsakes — and in a way, this whole album is almost like a keepsake in itself.” – Hatchie.
If 2018’s Sugar & Spice distilled a hazy and swoony pop sound, debut long player Keepsake reveals Harriette Pilbeam’s ever-growing confidence to explore new frontiers, while that voice and those melodies root the new songs squarely within familiar Hatchie territory.
It has been a mere couple of years since Hatchie (Pilbeam’s alter-ego) released her first single Try; captivating the music media in her native Australia and attracting the attention of Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie who remixed her second single Sure. An intervention such as Guthrie’s at such an early stage of Hatchie’s career could have seen her head enthusiastically down a dead-end, pigeon-holed as nothing more than a Cocteaus fangirl; instead, Hatchie’s 2018 release Sugar & Spice took only sparing colours from Guthrie’s palette, adding different pop, indie and shoegaze sensibilities to define her own brand of multi-layered, invigorating dream-pop.
Keepsake sees Hatchie renewing her collaboration with Sugar & Spice producer John Castle and is the product of home-studio sessions in Melbourne last year. This continuity has been positive and has given Pilbeam, alongside partner Joe Agius, the permission to develop their kaleidoscopic textures with bravery and, crucially, without it ever feeling contrived.
“The singles which trailed Keepsake have highlighted the subtle shifts in Hatchie’s writing since she sought to capture the first rush of being love, with those early Sugar & Spice compositions.”
The singles which trailed Keepsake have highlighted the subtle shifts in Hatchie’s writing since she sought to capture the first rush of being love, with those early Sugar & Spice compositions. The lyrics hinted, if not at things falling apart, then at least at vulnerability. “If I could kiss you one more time would it make everything all right or would it just make me a liar?” queries Pilbeam on Without A Blush, her vocal delivery recalling Toni Halliday at her coquettish best.
Stay With Me, sparingly but accurately labelled a “dream-pop banger” by Line of Best Fit, is the Hatchie song that no-one really saw coming. Described by Pilbeam as a “crying- in-the-club” song, it’s a dancefloor crossover not originally intended to be a Hatchie song. It’s an indication of her confidence and a vindication of her judgement that Pilbeam chose to please herself by including it on Keepsake. With a shuffling drumbeat and a savvy nod to Underworld’s Born Slippy, Stay With Me burns slowly; Pilbeam’s sultry and effortless contralto notes unfolding the familiar tale of the right people meeting at the wrong time. The euphoric finale when it arrives is worth the wait and you feel her desperation.
Latest single Obsessed is a fuzzy indie jangler which carries a welcome hint of Mazzy Star. Pilbeam’s self-effacing lyric can’t resist but drop an undercurrent of vulnerability again asking, “what happens when the love you give is greater than you receive?” The wistful and the weary continue to interplay across much of Keepsake. “If I had a rose for every sorry that was overdue, I’d have a garden full of flowers not a never-ending empty view,” Hatchie laments on beautiful opener Not That Kind. Over a seductive meandering bassline she punches defiantly, “I gave you what you wanted but you threw it away.”
“The themes of loss, longing and self-doubt pervade the album, lending it the feel of a self-discovery voyage which is still a long way from completion.”
There is redemption to be found particularly in the jangly Her Own Heart; a counterpoint to Stay With Me which throws light on the possibilities of better times on the other side of those difficult break-ups with its stay-true-to-yourself theme. Elsewhere, Secret takes on the topical matter of talking about mental health; the refrain of “can you keep a secret?” pinpointing the perpetuating stigma of opening up, even with those that might be considered to be close friends. The themes of loss, longing and self-doubt pervade the album, lending it the feel of a self-discovery voyage which is still a long way from completion.
Keepsake is an emotionally direct and pure no-filler offering, delivered with panache in Hatchie’s accessible and engaging style. Mid-twenties may seem early to be tackling memories and nostalgia, but in Keepsake, Hatchie has given us a stunning debut that we won’t be forgetting any time soon.