The One AM Radio
This Too Will Pass
rishikesh Hirway has been a primarily electronic-based artist, blending guitar-driven pop with synth gyrations à la Postal Service and John Vanderslice on his past three albums. This Too Will Pass is a foray into the acoustic, lulling, but still sticky and pop-ready sounds of artists like Andrew Bird. The production lends smoky atmosphere to tracks like “Lest I Forget,” where loud, reverberant drums nearly drown out Hirway’s gentle vocals. The blending of acoustic guitar with piano on opener “The Harvest” is Elliott Smith in more ways than one—the sparkling rhythmic structure of Hirway’s fingerpicking was one of Smith’s staples, and the vocal lends itself to Smith’s hollowed-out, languorous delivery. Still, the subtle intro to “The Harvest” soon delves into a structured, head-nodding, percussive line that carries out the rest of the song, putting Hirway’s stamp on the track.
While Hirway has not deviated completely from the older parts of his oeuvre, the instrumentation on these tracks is melodically homogenous: the clarinet line on “Mercury” borrows the pulsating production of the staple acoustic guitar and retains the simple, assonant arpeggios and descents heard on other tracks. Here, the instruments don’t so much play off one another as move rigidly in their specified realm of background or foreground, chorus or verse, sharing the spotlight with no detectable amount of passion. Furthermore, tempi don’t stray from the lower ranges of allegro, so few tracks stand out in a crowd of cloudy ballads.
Though Hirway sometimes makes his shyly catchy niche of electronic pop home (“Our Fall Apart”), he’s still naggingly lite in his delivery. The haunting “You Can Still Run” fails to hit the spot despite its chugging waltz of a drum line and inventive guitar counterpoint. The vocals get lost in their half-hearted delivery, and what could be a climax, with the guitar’s late introduction, is merely a fadeout. It’s followed by “Fires,” which nearly defies the former’s timidity with an ominous choral intro, but Hirway again relies on the echoed, industrial drums to carry the song, and doesn’t sit on the chorus performance long enough for it to be memorable—we’re left with a simple strum session and a dull metaphorical narrative.
The harp-like harmonic notes of the guitar on “A Brittle Filament,” which is no more than an interlude, speaks to some of the virtuosic elegance Hirway has been known for in the past. But it’s a fleeting moment only matched by the pretty, electronically-infused John Cale tribute “The Echoing Airports,” which stands out because of the contrast between slapping, synthetic percussion and nostalgic, string-backed vocal melody. This is an album not entirely worthy of the patience it requires to be appreciated track by track; Hirway’s mid-career shift feels transitory and incomplete, and the elements of his older work that appear here will likely intrigue listeners to explore his beginnings, or coax fans to revisit them.