Album Review: “Guilt Trips” by Ryan Hemsworth

Album Review: Guilt Trips by Ryan Hemsworth

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The Canadian electronic producer crafts excitingly peculiar and surreal sound in his first solo album

What does one expect from an artist whose tweets include such non-sequiturs such as “damn bruhbruh ya boy forgot how tight blowing bubbles was #summerhehe” or “WHAT’S BETTER THAN CUDDLING?” Or from an artist who has mashed up A$AP Rocky with Britney Spears? Well, you’ll probably get something like “Guilt Trips,” the unabashedly idiosyncratic debut album from Halifax-based producer Ryan Hemsworth, probably best known for his slew of remixes (“Manhattan” by Cat Power and “Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean).

With influences as far ranging as K-Pop and contemporary Shlohmo’s homespun take on downtempo R&B/hip hop, Hemsworth crafts chill, dreamlike beats most often categorized as “cloud rap” — airy, ambient hip-hop productions — with a strong penchant for pop stylings and structure, bringing us to “Guilt Trips,” a wonderfully fun album chock full of bright, colorful beats, melodies and vocal snippets. There’s a sort of childlike sense of wonder expressed throughout, characterized through bright synthesizers layered with tight, sporadic beats and eccentric samples. Take album highlight “Avec Vous,” which manages to seamlessly blend a sample of a creaking door with Hemsworth’s usual set of beats and synths.

However, the songs with guest features lose a bit of Hemsworth’s distinctive sound as they tend to generally take precedence over the productions themselves. It works best on “Against a Wall” featuring rapper Lofty305, whose vocals act in tandem with the song rather than serve as the focal point. But “Still Cold,” which features Baths — an electronic artist that makes similar dreamlike music — just sounds like another Baths song. It’s not a bad song by any means, but it doesn’t sound like Ryan Hemsworth’s usual collage of eclectic sounds.

Fortunately, the problems with the featured guests are not enough to detract too heavily from the album. We don’t get songs like “Colour & Movement,” a more solemn, downtempo affair from 2012’s “Last Words” but instead a more lively, upbeat set of tracks made more for dancing than introspection. It’s a cohesive patchwork of vibrant and engrossing sounds. “Guilt Trips” finds Hemsworth comfortable in his own space, highly informed by popular culture and current trends in electronic music but his own brand of bright yet ethereal R&B/hip hop.

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