Hrishikesh Hirway, the haunting voice and instrumentalist in The One AM Radio, offers up a fourth installment in his musical journey that suggests both a comfort of sound and the nagging tug of loneliness that seems to run rampant in this current state of postmodern technological isolation we live in. Set against the home-recorded electrical whir of drum machine and do-it-yourself synthetic beats, Hirway’s stuttering guitar and stripped-of-hope vocals pull you into a spiral of solitude, making you think that this is where heaven may yet reside.
There are mysteries hidden within the push and pull of indie pop sensibilities, along the line of Ben Gibbard and his Postal-Death Cab notions, that seem to collide helplessly into the swirling orchestrations that harken a sharp study in music theory and classical upbringing. On “In the Time We’ve Got,” Hirway sings to his chosen someone that they “had the city in you, always in the way you moved,” which comes across as both accusation and apology, as if the skyline looming in the background is a not so subtle reminder that a thousand others were outside waiting, even as we all sit alone in our rooms. The song, and the album, paint a picture of the hesitancy that hits us when we experience moments that overwhelm, options all around us that fill our senses to the point where all we can do is shake our heads at all of it, and instead choose to sit on the windowsill and watch the world go by.
“Cast Away” was the song that grabbed hold of me, hard and fast, from the first moment I heard it. The opening lines slicing like a poison arrow, opening up barely healed wounds that I’m sure we all have nursed after surviving a heartache, and then felt ripped open again at that moment when you realize love has actually died: “The first thing you saw when you washed up onto the shore were the words I don’t love you anymore,” sung in this dreamy, underwater haze that may mean to soften the blow as we fall into the harsh reality of endings, to mask the unavoidable concrete below. It almost tricks you, the beauty circling around the pain, enough so that you find yourself smiling through the threat of tears. The isolation of being lost at sea seeming almost like the better option to what is here on the shore; but then again I may be easily led this way as the ocean has always felt like home.
What fascinates me most about this album is the sense of a life story that seems to be sewn into the songs, as if I am just peering over the edge of the couch and watching those shaky home movies play on the slightly torn white screen all our parents used to pull out when their sense of nostalgia hit. It reminds me of being a child in the seventies, riding my bike through the tree lined neighborhoods while I sang along to my AM radio attached to the handlebars; afternoons when I was celebrating the chance to be away from everyone, yet close enough to still see my home.
It also reminds me of standing in the middle of any big city airport, blown over by the bustle of people on their way somewhere, that pulse of excitement that winds through us much like the backbeat that is intricately lining the contents of the song “The Echoing Airports.” There is also a stark sadness there, that feeling of not being at the gate to meet anyone who will throw their arms around you; the kind of feeling that Hirway remarks in the lyrics, “I go to airports to watch the lovers reunite/ I go to airports to be near strangers’ hopes and dreams.” His longing is clear and distinct, and so utterly relatable.
This album brings to me a kind of emotional confliction. The unmistakable pang of lonely isolation layered like gauzy shawl that wraps around the shoulders of the adrenaline rush of freedom in being alone. “Where I’m Headed” ends the album, and leaves me wistful for city lights that blow kisses at the dashboard of my car as I drive with no particular destination through the streets of Los Angeles. It makes me want to embrace those moments of bittersweet regret and hard to define memories, get lost in the process of losing, and fall asleep to this lilting dream of sound where there might be a light at the end somewhere. But, if not, Hirway promises that This Too Will Pass, and in the process we can sing along to the ups and downs existing, and the truth that sometimes we all are lonely, and alone.