Published Dec 08, 2020Though he's most often considered an electronic artist, indie rock and pop-punk have been regular influences in Ryan Hemsworth's music for years. Since 2013's Alone for the First Time, Hemsworth has slowly pushed his music in more songwriter-friendly directions while his RyanPack mixes simultaneously maintain his cred as a DJ and producer while doubling as a showcase for his somewhat incongruous musical pedigree.
Quarter-Life Crisis, the self-titled EP from Hemsworth's new moniker, is his most explicit attempt to blend these two worlds to date. Guest vocalists have played an increasingly important role on his records, but this project explicitly pulls singers from the indie-emo nexus. Hop Along's Frances Quinlan, Meg Duffy (as Hand Habits) and Hovvdy's Chris Martin all make appearances, singing over production that neither mirrors the work of their day jobs nor shoehorns them into someone else's sound.
Rather, Hemsworth proves deft at writing for others without abandoning his core aesthetics. Guitars figure prominently, as do live drums. But there are enough subtle production tricks, guitar effects, a swirling background atmosphere and an overall melancholic tone that remind you who's in the driver's seat — "Fatigue," the record's lone instrumental, seem to be Hemsworth's way of illustrating this point.
Quinlan, probably the most idiosyncratic singer on the record, leads the EP's biggest highlight, "Postcard from Spain." But even lesser known collaborators like Claud and Yohuna are given the space to put their stamp on their contributions.
It's unclear why Hemsworth decided to use a pseudonym for this project. It hews close enough to his work under his own name that it was unlikely to confuse fans and each singer's contribution seems to be a one-off rather than an extended collaboration. Regardless, Quarter-Life Crisis is another winner is Hemsworth's winding road of a career. (Saddle Creek)