In music criticism, character is an essential quality that is often overlooked. It’s not that critics ignore character; it’s just that in most cases, it’s so obviously part of a band or artist that it doesn’t merit mention. But in the case of the One AM Radio (a project of songwriter Hrishikesh Hirway), the sense of character — which is so necessary in understanding and connecting with the artist’s intention — is desperately absent. And so it is with his third album of subtle electronics and organic acoustics: It should not be this hard to connect with something as sensitive and reflective as This Too Will Pass.
Hirway is not a particularly strong vocalist, and his presence here is far too unassuming and indirect. Whereas even the most unconventional singers recognize what they lack and sing with conviction, Hirway’s singing isn’t much more than a strong whisper. His vocals waver in insecurity, and it stymies him from connecting his personal presence with the musical atmosphere he creates. Musically, Hirway (who produced the album himself) spawns a mood of somber longing and reflection. Most of the songs begin with a subtle electronic flourish, a solemn guitar and rich string arrangement, but Hirway’s vocals come off disjointed and empty.
Maybe I’ve missed Hirway’s point. Maybe the album’s purpose is to be unassuming and indirect. Maybe this disconnect is purposeful, to allow listeners to draw their own meaning. But juxtaposed against the music, a line like “You still felt the same you said/ as since we had begun/ but a longing crept into the eyes I know” doesn’t carry the emotional weight it needs to. Hirway intends for much grander experience, but his shortcomings, be it insecurity or fear, do not allow him to achieve that. Instead, we’re left confused over just who Hirway is, and the real loss is the lack of intimacy between the artist and his audience.