Review Summary: Ryan Hemsworth's debut finds him more comfortable taking on a traditional producers role, yet struggling to establish textured electronic soundscapes.
In the last few years, artists including Grimes, Crystal Castles, Purity Ring, Doldroms, and Caribou (to name just a few) have emerged out of the burgeoning Canadian indie-electronic scene. Ryan Hemsworth is the latest Canadian to gather some buzz in the states, and thanks to the success of his contemporaries as well as his own success with remixes, singles, and an EP- his debut album Guilt Trips
has garnered a respectable level of pre-release hype.
Stylistically, Hemsworth is reliant on traditional notions of beat-driven hip-hop more so than any of the aforementioned artists, and as such, Guilt Trips
can often sound much like a beat tape rather than a full-fledged LP. Much of the tracks feature a trap inspired aesthetic as well as drum and bass that, due to its precedence within the mix, tends to dilute the record’s subtleties and sonic nuances. “Ryan Must Be Destroyed” begins by showcasing what appears to be a highly original sonic palette, yet eventually has more in common with the work of an amateur producer thanks to its preset drum beat and irritating, un-modulated vocal samples. Similarly, “Avec Vous” rarely transcends beyond the realm of your average, generic hip-hop instrumental, and fails to engage for much of its four-minute plus run time.
Yet, there are a comparable number of instances on the record where Hemsworth reaches the high level of potential that his remixes and EPs promised. Most notable is the effective usage of the record’s many guest spots, like on lead single “Against the Wall,” where sampled vocals, twinkling piano keys and a perpetual sense of movement construct what is easily the album’s crowning aural achievement. On the low-key ballad “Still Cold,” Will Wiesenfeld of Baths fame pairs his witty lyricism with a sentimental instrumental that could have easily been stretched across another minute or two in length. Similarly, the R&B influenced “One For Me” is an example of a traditional tune that, paired with pleasant vocals from artist Tinashe, benefits from Hemsworth’s singular production style.
It could be considered slightly concerning that the strongest tracks on Guilt Trips
recruit outside artists and find Ryan Hemsworth carrying out the more traditional producer role. Yet, it is also important to keep in mind that this is indeed a debut album, and as such, some confusion over sonic identity is to be expected. While several of the electronic cuts on Guilt Trips
feel a tad flat and uninspired, there are enough confident, inventively produced tracks on display for Hemsworth to be considered yet another promising Canadian musical prospect.