Ryan Hemsworth’s latest release is entitled “Alone for the First Time.” Yet on this album he’s certainly not alone, and it’s definitely not his first release. Hemsworth has hand-picked independent artists, chosen through his Secret Songs record club — a community of like-minded electronic music producers cultivated by Hemsworth himself — to accompany him. Known primarily for his remixes of almost every pop song in circulation, Hemsworth is now focusing on developing his own voice. His most notable work is remixes of trendy pop songs, “Summertime Sadness” (2013) by Lana Del Rey, “Thinkin’ Bout You” (2012) by Frank Ocean and even music by internet sweetheart Waka Flocka Flame. Hemsworth made a name for himself on the internet trap scene being featured on many music aggregation websites.
With his first studio album “Guilt Trips” (2013), Hemsworth quieted critics who labeled him as a YouTube star or a SoundCloud musician by producing a mature piece of work that both displayed sophistication and pushed the envelope. Ryan Hemsworth’s “sound” is a very eclectic one, drawing inspiration from classic 8-bit videogames of the ’90s while overlaying a snappy synth to keep your head bobbing. His work has sometimes been described as “bedroom electronic,” making its way onto many go-to playlists to have in the background during more intimate moments.
“Alone for the First Time,” as the name might imply, takes a more melancholic turn in Hemsworth’s career. The album is the soundtrack to a movie that was never made. The opening note of the opening song “Hurt Me” sets the tone with celestial strings, making way for Hemsworth’s trademark synth and lasers straight out of “Space Invaders” (1978). The song lulls a bit with cutesy, high-pitched vocals that sound like they should be in Japanese, but quickly picks up every once in a while to keep you interested. The album then features a more refined take on the melancholic vibe set up by the first track with “Walk Me Home,” which will have broader appeal than the first, more niche and more experimental opening jam.
Hemsworth then features guest vocalist Dawn Golden in the more individually appreciated track “Snow in Newark,” previously released as a single to considerable acclaim. In this song, he begins to really hit his stride, and listeners will finally give up any resistance and let the synth take over. As the name implies, this song, and by extension the album, is more of a winter listen, reserved for cold evenings under a security blanket sipping Earl Grey tea. This song constitutes the pinnacle of this feeling, with soothing beats and comforting vocals.
“Blemish” and “Too Long Here” combine more classical elements like funky guitar riffs and jazzy piano with just the right amount of electronic quirk. It’s on “Surrounded,” though, that Hemsworth strikes gold. The ethereal voice of unknown California singer Kotomi and the terrific synth interlude in the middle of the song are overtly sensual. And finally, “By Myself” caps off the album with a bit of the old Hemsworth — strong, hip-hop style beats characterize the song along with a few rap verses to remind listeners of his roots as a music producer.
“Alone for the First Time” is a very strong album for an artist still trying to find his voice, and definitely a step in the right direction for Hemsworth’s career. What ultimately lets the album down are the awful, cheesy lyrics. Often laced with irony like Hemsworth’s tweets, the lyrics are stripped of all comedic value when sung over these melancholic melodies. Thankfully these verses are sparse, but will remind listeners of tweets usually followed by #deep.
Many however, do not listen to Ryan Hemsworth for his lyrics, and are likely to be thoroughly impressed by his newest endeavor as an innovative music production. Utilizing the community of strangers bound by a love for bedroom electronica, Hemsworth is paving new ground in the way of music collaboration and giving a voice to the voiceless — albeit a voice saying silly things.