Album Review: Ryan Hemsworth – Guilt Trips

Back in October, beat-wizard Ryan Hemsworth dropped his emotionally turbulent conceptual LP, Guilt Trips. His music aesthetic is eclectic at best and consistently leaves us listeners unable to easily pinpoint his style. He’s been known to drop Kyary Pamyu Pamyu tracks during live sets and can easily switch into dark, emotive music. Although I’ve been sleeping on this review for months, each time I’ve played Guilt Trips from start to finish I’ve been taken on a ride through my own buried guilt. It is an album built on deep introspection and also begs for forgiveness.

I can honestly say that there is not a single song I dislike off the LP. Maybe it’s from working through my own dark times, but Guilt Trips hits you with honesty. Hemsworth breaks up the album into three different sects within this overarching theme – acknowledgement, rejection and ultimately acceptance. He goes through the acknowledgement / realization in the beginning of the album exploring the factors which plague his vices. From there, he goes into the rejection phase, where he pushes both his problems and those who care away from him through chaotic and dark melodies. Finally, in acceptance, he attempts to reconcile his doubts and guilt in order to move forward where the music becomes smoother and calmer.

His track ‘Weird Life’ sets up the conceptual album for us. The composition of the track is unsettling yet has this miasmic beauty to it which keeps drawing the listener in.  Fans of Ta-Ku would also dig the track since the synths are reminiscent of the Make it Last EP. He segues into ‘Avec Vous’ which serves as the darker half convincing him to fall deeper into his emotions. It’s playful and eerily sounds like a distant carnival teased with sensual vocals to lure one in.

‘Happiness & Dreams Forever’ is one of the strongest songs off Guilt Trips. It’s deceivingly happy and is convincing of being a dream the moment the sampled vocal repeats “please don’t trust me” over and over again. The drums and beat drive this home and with heavy synths in the background it sounds more like an impending nightmare.

The consumption of guilt is carried through his tracks ‘Yaeko Mitamura is Lonely,’ ‘Ryan Must Be Destroyed,’ and ‘Still Cold ft. Baths.’ The melodic lines return hauntingly in ‘Ryan Must Be Destroyed’ in a sinister manner, sounding almost gleeful at the consumption of guilt. There’s a give and take, however, with beats from ‘Weird Life’ making appearances and the warbling synths which serve as the fight between the two halves. ‘Still Cold’ is another favorite song of mine off Guilt Trips since it begins the acceptance phase of the album. It’s the rock bottom of the album which serves as the second turning point and let’s be real – Baths killed the vocals in the track (as per usual).

‘Day / Night / Sleep System’ is another golden track off the album. It features two vocalists and continues the dark introspectiveness that Guilt Trips stands by. With references to video games, comics and pop culture, the constant struggle with oneself using these tropes and figures is exemplified in the song. After continuing the theme in ‘Against A Wall,’ it flows into ‘Small + Lost’ which was one of the lead singles for the LP. It’s an absolute stunner and encapsulates all the minute details and emotiveness of the album perfectly. The rolling, distant synths and distorted vocals in the background with featured Sinead Harnett absolutely steal the show.

Finally, we have ‘One For Me.’ While tracks like ‘Day / Night / Sleep System,’ ‘Against a Wall,’ and ‘Small + Lost’ built us up to the acceptance phase, ‘One For Me’ is what solidifies it. The lyrics tell someone that they will try as hard as possible to be a better person and be a solid lover. The melody itself is by far the most serene song off the album. It’s a simplified melody, using drums and a smooth synth line to drive it home.

Some stand-out tracks from Guilt Trips include ‘Happiness & Dreams Forever,’ ‘Still Cold,’ ‘Day / Night / Sleep System,’ and ‘Against A Wall.’