Originally written and published by me for PopMatters.
When you listen to Keepsake, the debut LP by Harriette Pilbeam—known professionally as Hatchie—it’s a clear throwback to the indie dream-pop of days past, when names like Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins dominated the indie music narrative. But with her second studio album Giving the World Away, Pilbeam has kept the synths but embraced more of an alt-pop sound and image reminiscent of Sigrid or Sky Ferreira. Needless to say, the record simply goes places its predecessor did not and helps to establish Hatchie as a voice to watch on the alt/indie pop scene.
Where Keepsake felt composed mostly of lovelorn dream sequences, Giving the World Away forges a more concise narrative, one that feels familiar within the landscape of pop music made by musicians in their twenties. The album doesn’t necessarily feel like a pandemic record, but the reflections its lyrics explore were most certainly influenced by the periods of isolation that the last few years have brought. Having begun the songwriting process with her husband and several producers just before the 2020 lockdowns, Pilbeam ended up continuing to collaborate with Jorge Elbrecht, who helped to produce Giving the World Away virtually.
Her initial sessions with Elbrecht helped bore the album’s lead single released last September, “This Enchanted,” whose music video evokes imagery from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and helped Giving the World Away find its album cover. But the record really finds its hook with “Quicksand,” released in January, whose lyrics grapple with the uncertainty of life paths certainly brought about by life’s tendency to repeatedly flip upside down, especially lately.
“I used to think that this was something I could die for / I hate admitting to myself that I was never sure,” she proclaims on the track in a bout of harsh and honest dialogue that is necessary with oneself, especially as a twentysomething. Like most musicians and performers, Hatchie found her career upended by the pandemic and its ensuing crises, leading her to return to working retail for a time while she continued working on the album. “Quicksand” reflects her uncertainties, and by extension everyone’s uncertainties, about what the future holds, and its up-tempo production allows us to feel ourselves while we worry. “It was just this overwhelming feeling [about life] that I had to really process,” Pilbeam said of the song.
The record’s preoccupation with alt-pop sensibilities also allows for a concrete listening experience scarcely found in Hatchie’s discography up until this point, especially as she learns to trust her gut and listen to the rhythm within. Although her voice and meaning can sometimes get lost in the dreamlike state she continues to emulate, Giving the World Away comes through the most when Pilbeam lets her anxieties take the lead. Where an ambitious production like this one would cause the deeper messages of other indie artists to get lost in the mix, Hatchie pulls it off by inviting us deeper and deeper into her world with each track, no matter how sleepy or domineering.
“Whether it’s like some sort of positive progression that I had with my mental health, or a friendship that I’ve managed to improve, or something to do with my music achievements—or anything, really—I think I forget that good things that are happening to me that might seem normal now, didn’t even seem possible a few years ago,” Pilbeam said of Giving the World Away. “So I really need to sit and reflect on my present more, because I was really focusing on my past and my future way too much and getting really anxious and overwhelmed and disappointed, and I didn’t realize how good I have it.”
Jeffrey’s favorites from Giving the World Away: “Lights On,” “This Enchanted,” “The Rhythm,” “Quicksand,” and “Giving the World Away”