"You could take a break to recalibrate," Hatchie sings at one point on Giving the World Away, and that's just what she did on her second album. While her first full-length, 2019's Keepsake, proved she could expand on her 1990s-meets-21st century, dream pop-meets-Top 40 pop style with sweet sincerity, three years later she branched out with a more ambitious sound and more mature songwriting. Working with Jorge Elbrecht -- who has helped Tamaryn, Sky Ferreira, and Japanese Breakfast reach ethereal heights -- and Beach House drummer James Barone, on Giving the World Away Hatchie ventures further into the more complex and sometimes darker approach she only hinted at on her debut album. "Lights On" introduces her new outlook with harder-hitting beats, shimmering keyboards and confident vocals that strip some of the sugar from her delivery (but not too much). The title track is an even bigger departure, with acid house keyboards and a driving urgency that recalls the electronic pop of the late '90s and early 2000s instead of the dream pop and shoegaze heyday a few years prior. However, Hatchie hasn't deserted her flair for sticky-sweet choruses or blissfully distorted guitars. There are plenty of both on "This Enchanted," which evokes Chapterhouse's mix of baggy beats and clouds of guitar on their classic single "Pearl." Yet even when she sings about breezy romance on "Twin" and "Sunday Song," there's a sense of serene connection that feels more real than Keepsake's yearning and crushes. Occasionally, Giving the World Away's production flourishes overpower Hatchie; "The Rhythm," which uses the beat as a metaphor for personal growth, packs in so many keyboards and effects that she's nearly crowded out of the song. Fortunately, the record's second half finds the sweet spot between where Hatchie has been and where she's going. "The Key"'s pairing of shoegaze riffs and glossy trip-hop beats -- which are more Olive or Zero 7 than Portishead or Massive Attack -- feels both fresh and true to her music. The same goes for "Quicksand" and "Don't Leave Me in the Rain," both of which lend more restraint and depth to the album's approach. As she ponders "the you you used to be" while drifting off on "Til We Run Out of Air"'s gossamer wash of sound, she distills Giving the World Away's balancing act between contentment and the need for growth perfectly. While it isn't quite as consistent as Keepsake, its finest moments are some of Hatchie's most exciting work.
Giving the World Away Review
by Heather Phares