Album Review: Hatchie – Giving The World Away

[Secretly Canadian; 2022]

When Harriette Pilbeam aka Hatchie sings “Take my hand / you don’t have to worry anymore,” the line feels like an exhale; one not of relief, but comfort. The song, appropriately titled “Take My Hand”, arrives on her debut album Giving The World Away after three songs of anthemic dream pop and immersive shoegaze, genres the Australian musician has always worked to make her own. Here, she finishes the chorus with simple yet sincere words of acceptance, “No you don’t have to change.”

It’s an interesting request considering Pilbeam has declared Giving The World Away as a turning point. “This album really just feels like the beginning to me,” she said, “and scratching the surface—and even though it’s my third release as Hatchie, I feel like I’m rebooting from scratch.” In a recent interview, Pilbeam explained that with Giving the World Away she opened up to more collaboration with others, particularly with co-writing, which was something she resisted on earlier projects. For example “Quicksand”, one of the album’s most ominous songs, was co-written by Olivia Rodrigo collaborator Dan Nigro. While she continued to work with her longtime collaborator (and husband) Joe Agius, his input was more direct and arrived earlier in the songwriting process. 

Listeners familiar with Hatchie’s previous work will notice new genre explorations on this outing. Kaleidoscopic keys dance around the album’s pulsing title track, the kind of blend used in Cut Copy’s more recent projects. The mid-tempo swaying and swirling synths that make up “The Rhythm” wouldn’t sound out of place on No Joy’s Motherhood. “Sunday Song”, the album’s penultimate track, comes closest to the gentler moments of her previous work – guitar strums flesh out the verse that contain some of Pilbeam’s sweetest delivery on the album, but even here the echoing drums that roll over the choruses give the song momentous energy.

Yet Giving The World Away doesn’t feel like a reboot so much as a payoff – it’s easily her most confident and rewarding work to date, the result of Pilbeam’s commitment to redefining her relationship with her music. These 12 songs are denser in their instrumentation and production than Hatchie’s previous work; Giving the World Away was produced by Jorge Elbrecht, who’s worked with Japanese Breakfast and Sky Ferreira, while percussion was played by Beach House live drummer James Barone. Regardless, the album is still imbued with Pilbeam’s established touches of enchantment and sensitivity.

Lyrically, Pilbeam moves beyond themes of heartache to tackle the internal push and pull that results from her rising fame (“I feel myself take it for granted / I know I should be happy here” she admits on “Quicksand”). This isn’t to say she’s abandoned themes of romance, but there’s also an added weight in the songs that deal with love, the kind that comes with experience and maturity. “Lights On” focuses on how we oh-so-often pass on the people who do love us (“I never understood you were the right one”). The consequences are heard on the following track “This Enchanted”, where neon-colored keys embellish this blissful pop anthem that sees Pilbeam confess her infatuation with someone who constantly hurts her.

These themes blend on “The Key”, a song that opens up with hazy, faraway vocals and settles into the shoegaze palette of punching rhythms and swirling guitars and synths. Pilbeam starts with a self-interrogation of her life choices (“Lost sight of who I’m supposed to be / But within the chaos I can see, I’m not me”). Yet, by the song’s end, she turns her questioning outward; “Followed you through a broken dream / Lead to a cage not built for me, with no key.” These lyrics reflect the moment she’s found herself, giving her world away to whoever will listen. And in doing so she’s found her confidence – now she’s ready to take the hands of others and help them find their own.