Up until this point, listeners have only heard Brisbane’s Harriette Pilbeam, under the alias Hatchie, explore the enclosed proximities of love. Since her 2018 debut extended playlist, “Sugar & Spice,” she has been aware of this theme. The tracklist covered a range of those premature stages of crushing on someone. “Sugar,” in particular, touched on dreaming of your crush and played with the probability of a perfect match. Other tracks diagnosed other early stages of infatuation, such as “Try” epitomizing getting steady with a love interest or the title track depicting Pilbeam’s obsession with him.
But “Keepsake” was created contextually different from its predecessor. Affection is not of the utmost importance lyrically, but more so as an opposition of it, and pop blueprints are questioned in favor of more musical creativity. The long playlist opts out of its Taylor Swift-tinged influence and brings in a Mazzy Star nuance. John Castle, responsible for Vance Joy’s production of “Riptide,” serves as the only producer behind the former Old Violets member. Pop still plays a role in the production but takes a backseat for styles like shoegaze and alternative dance to realize themselves.
“Not That Kind” sets the tone. A throbbing drum loop akin to Mitski’s 2016 “Happy” begins before glossy distorted guitars and crisp snares settle. Pilbeam makes strides poetically (“If I had a rose/For every sorry that was overdue/I'd have a garden full of flowers”) and denies destiny as the final word. She makes her struggle with intimacy known, although the euphoria masks this message effectively. She continues to disclose her troubles in “Without a Blush,” a gloomy meditation on a seemingly past flame. The results are a tad polarized, with the lyrics being more prosaic than expected, but simplicity is often overlooked in these situations.
Due to the nature of the genre, her vocals are mixed low to the point of being unintelligible at times. “Kiss the Stars” fuses its synths and her breathy vocals into a mash of stretched harmonies while covering the singer’s fear of loneliness. Others, “Stay with Me” and “Obsessed,” handle this topic in varying manners, the former suggesting Pilbeam not finding closure in a certain relationship and the latter conveying an “opposites attract” motif.
Pilbeam’s vocals are versatilely modulated for each song, serving sometimes as wallpaper in favor of the overall soundscape. “Unwanted Guest” experiments with this feature heavily. Her register rebels into high frequencies on the chorus, whereas the post-chorus immediately draws back on extreme reverb and slow pronunciations. “Obsessed” reverts to a reserved, pessimistic persona. The refrain, “I get a little bit obsessed but it’s,” plays repeatedly, with each denounced by a later verse rationalizing her strong approach to love.
The album’s closer “Keep” returns to the cheerful jangle guitars heard in the opening and ceases love’s turbulence in her life. She croons at the outro, “I’m gonna let you keep my love” this time around. Hatchie feels unbothered at this point. Her embark on hopeless romance is the last symptom of the teenage fever. On “Kiss the Stars,” she crooned about taking the back roads to their hometown with her romantic interest; she now is looking for a new route without him.
While some elements of each track remain more dismissible than others, such as the visceral, often vegetative state of “Secret” and the somewhat pretentious narration in “Her Own Heart,” “Keepsake” functions on its pinnacle of ‘90s/’00s shoegaze and dream pop, and the hurtful outcomes of devotion. The Australian songstress pays homage to several past artists in this genre, but she never creates advancement to shoegaze and dream pop per se. In this sense, it seems that they do not exactly need innovation and that those like Hatchie are already comfortable and are great with its current form.