Giving The World Away
Hatchie’s long-awaited return couldn’t have come at a better time. Yes, the world might be ending, and yes, we really are pretending to be fully out of the pandemic. And you know what? Perhaps those scientists constantly reminding us that we’re going to scorch ourselves into oblivion might be onto something, but that’s fine. Because hope (and a little bit of dream pop) is all we need to weather such storms.
In all seriousness though, we’re thrilled to welcome the singer and her sophomore album back into the fray, even if the industry is in a totally different state than she left it. In the three agonisingly long years since Hatchie’s last full-length project, she’s teamed up with Britain’s dreamiest boyband (Swim Deep), covered a late 90s Jennifer Paige classic (Crush), and also made an escape to the city of sin with her frequent collaborator Joe Aguis (a.k.a. RINSE), for a good ole fashioned Vegas wedding. Her chiller-than-a-bucket-of-beers aura melts into something far coyer when she elaborates on the stateside nuptials, you could even call it going doe-eyed: “He really helped me find my voice on this project.”
Dropping late last month on Secretly Canadian, her new album Giving The World Away draws its own gravitational pull in the Hatchie musical universe, already rich with the starcrossed soundscapes of EPs like Sugar and Spice and Keepsake, Hatchie’s magnificent 2019 debut. Leaning further into the balladic pop that made the latter offering so enchanting, things took initial inspiration from the rave-ready sounds of Madchester (remnants of which can be found on the record’s experimental gem The Rhythm), which as the 90s progressed, slowly unravelled into trip-hop. Somewhere along the way, contemporary alt-favourites such as The Horrors and Caroline Polachek crept into this make-shift soundtrack, lending their vast pop melodies and terrifying downward spirals to GTWA’s twisted oeuvre, but more on that later.
Hatchie – Harriette Pilbeam – grew up in Brisbane, Australia, and gravitated to music from an early age, nurtured in her passions by a similarly musical family. At age ten she could sing, play the keyboard and shred guitars with ease, and by the end of her teens, she had already made her way through a handful of bands formed with friends – one titled Babaganoush, after the Turkish side sauce – before finally releasing her debut single smack-bang in the middle of her twenties. “It took me a while to get there,” she quips, “but I’m glad I took my time with it.”
Spending those early days cutting her teeth on shoegaze titans such as Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, it’s the likes of The Sundays and the Elizabeth Fraser-fronted Cocteau Twins that spoke specifically to Hatchie’s artistry. “Those are the [bands] that made me feel like I could do it myself, and part of that is the fact that they both have female lead vocalists,” she says. Aguis has been along for the ride this whole time, too, lending his expertise as a producer, writer and band member where necessary. He even encouraged the singer to take on the childhood nickname that would end up as her stage moniker – birthing a star as we know it.
There’s joy in experiencing GTWA as a dance on the chaotic ashes of lockdown and life thereafter, or a reminder not to take life too seriously, nay for granted. It grew from production sessions with Jorge Elbrecht cut short, chance meetings with Beach House drummer James Barone, introspective thoughts about youth and body image, and a general feeling of disconnection that permeated the unchartered, work-from-home territory of lockdown one.
Visual cues found themselves taken from the fleeting cityscape covering PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, and also the immersive neon compositions of Kylie Minogue’s Impossible Princess, shot by Stephane Sednaoui (also responsible for another frantic neon-city: Björk’s Post). Speaking of her fellow Aussie pop icon, Pilbeam lights up, edging closer to the screen as she ponders the impact of the elder Minogue sister on her craft. “I would say she’s probably one of my top three artists ever,” she beams. And the others? “New Order and Cocteau Twins.” Naturally.
You can see the influence of all these powerhouses across the record in ambitious pop hooks, immersive lyrical offerings, and even the tingling, homonymic earworms that litter This Enchanted. It’s an admittedly grand entrance to this neon-lit world, reverberating with lush synths and funky guitars. “I didn’t want to start it too seriously,” Pilbeam says, “I think after such a big break I wanted to do something that was just really different, that would surprise people and really grab their attention.”
The album’s title track, then, veers off in a totally different direction, seeing off those feelings of wistfulness in a cloud of screeching tires and ceaseless landscapes. It’s a mix of total confusion and near hopelessness, though her innate storytelling eventually winds up at an optimistic near-future. Other titles take on the singer’s journey to finding confidence in all aspects of her life, or reap the heady spoils of chasing crushes and remembering good shags. Hatchie explains that addressing this balance was another layer imperative to the project, so even her many, many quarter-life crises get a look in.
With all this pushing and pulling, it’s no wonder the rest of the album is characterised by keen feelings of emotional disarray, spiralling into devastating and magnificent ballads like Don’t Leave Me In The Rain and Til We Run Out Of Air. The latter bookends the project as a sonic parting of clouds, somewhat distrusting of its immediate tranquillity. Hatchie tells us she’s unsure if the offering is about a friend or even herself as she sees out overcoming the chaos of the last few years. In that way, it’s an unlikely love song, one that dispels the darkness with a swift drawing of lyrical curtains and some majorly feel-good pop – which, as Giving The World Away shows, is the best antidote for any time of turmoil.
Hatchie will play Shoreditch’s Village Underground on September 27th. Giving The World Away is out now via Secretly Canadian.