In 2005, Hrishikesh Hirway relocated from Los Angeles to Mumbai, India, where he shaped much of what would become the fourth full-length from The One AM Radio. The thought-provoking lyrics and seamless blend of acoustic and electronic instrumentation make for an exceedingly pleasant listen. Though not rife with intensely memorable moments, This Too Will Pass is an album that will seep into your brain, unbeknownst to you, and make itself at home. It’s too pretty not to.
From the album’s opening acoustic guitar figure, flecked with synthesizer swells and later flanked by ominously roomy beats, one is sufficiently prepared for the basic idea that frames most of the songs to follow. The shifts in mood and tonal colors are subtle. Light strings, upright bass, and heavily processed drums are Hirway’s favored tools for supplementing the deceptively simple guitar-based songs. One of his greatest strengths seems to be as an arranger. In places where most songwriters might use additional chord changes to introduce new sections, he often keeps the same basic structure, adding or subtracting instruments from the mix. This technique is executed smoothly and with great attention to detail. When coupled with the record’s decidedly low-key dynamic, however, the repetitive nature of this approach may relegate it to the background. That’s not necessarily a problem, because it doesn’t care if you notice while it begins to infiltrate your brain. It’s just going to do it anyway.
Although an album that is clearly meant to be digested as a whole, 3 of its 13 tracks are notable for their uncharacteristically bite-sized immediacy. “In The Time We’ve Got” features the chorus, “You had the city in you, always in the way you moved, with the skyline and the avenues,” at once ambiguous and charmingly sentimental. “The Echoing Airports” is another standout, and it showcases Hirway’s ability to connect what the music sounds like to what the lyrics are describing. The unobtrusive strings and restrained snare effectively bring to mind the atmosphere of an airport concourse. The preceding track, “Fires,” lays claim to the loudest 60 seconds on the record. Built around a series of ascending “ahhs” and horns, distant-sounding crash cymbals propel the movement toward a sudden acoustic-guitar-and-vocal breakdown, which then gives way to dub-influenced drums that conclude the song. It’s a curious way to end, but the jarring transitions alone make for an exciting departure from the rest of the album.
This Too Will Pass is an eloquent, relaxing piece of work. It uses effect processing in an exceedingly tasteful way that serves to enhance the arrangements. The drum patterns in particular sound considerably more interesting as a result of the way that they’re treated, and Hirway’s voice is crystal clear, even while playing something of a secondary role to the overall ambience. If one were to reduce the album to a tenuous comparison, he would say it’s almost like Elliott Smith fronting Portishead. The album hits a bit of a snag with “Cast Away,” “Our Fall Apart,” and “You Can Still Run,” all of which occasionally feel like they’re dragging, but constant stimulus is obviously not as crucial with a record as meditative as this. Most shortcomings just drift out to the periphery when you listen from beginning to end. All that’s left, then, is what was intended: dreamy, detailed, syrupy melancholy. It’s probably not something you’d find yourself coming back to every day, but there is probably a time and place for everyone where this album is exactly what you want to hear.