Last year, on a
magical night in late March, i saw a wonderful performance by an oddly named band. I bought their then newest CD, and fell in love with them. Say Hi To Your Mom make quirky, silly synth pop with catchy beats and hummable lyrics.
Since then, the band has dropped the "To Your Mom" and released another record. This is their fifth overall. It continues the trend of heartfelt lyrics, odd stories, and toe-tapping beats.
One of the first things you notice on looking at a Say Hi release is that they have great song titles: Oboes Bleat and Triangles Tink, Magic Beans and Truth Machines, and of course the Rime of the Ancient Mariner-denying We Lost the Albatross.
But Say Hi are about more than clever titles! There are clever lyrics, happy synth lines, and sparse percussion. Say Hi's mainman, Eric Elbogen, sings the words lightly, breathily. I know that some people (including a sound engineer i once worked with) will dislike the breathy style of the vocals, but i find it endearing. It makes the music seem more personal.
And that is what i like about Say Hi. Their songs (not just here, but over the course of their 5-album-thus-far career) come across as very personal. Elbogen sings about failed relationships, sci-fi dreams, and odd occurrences, but he does so in a non-pretentious way. These lyrics do not come across as being composed by someone who enjoyed their Poetry class in college so much that they had to become a poet/songwriter. Rather, i get the sense that this is just the way that Elbogen communicates. In fact, a lot of the song subjects and some of the actual phrases he use are things that i can see coming up in casual conversation with the people i hang out with. This makes his lyrics seem very honest to me. You mileage may vary, of course, especially if you do not hang out with relatively geeky people, as i do.
I have to confess that The Wishes and the Glitch is something of minor disappointment to me. You see, Impeccable Blahs, their previous vampire-themed album, was a masterpiece. Every song on there is catchy and as close to perfect as it can get. Really. That is a stunning album, and is destined to be regarded as a classic. My problem with The Wishes and the Glitch is that it doesn't flow as smoothly as the previous release. At times, it almost feels as if Elbogen is trying to force lyrics to work with melodies that aren't exactly right for them. In particular, i find the phrasing on Back Before We Were Brittle to be frustratingly off.
Still, there are some very good songs here. For example, Oboes Bleat and Triangles Tink features a staccato guitar riff that reminds me of the late 80s. Couple that with a chugging beat, and nice layered voice on the chorus, and you get a good pop tune.
Bluetime is a very minimal song built mostly out of synths, which Elbogen uses is a fascinating way quite like no one else these days. Elbogen uses various synth tones as if he was playing guitar, instead of the washes of sound that other bands (Boards
of Canada, or Ulrich Schnauss, for example) use. This actually reminds me a lot of the Golden Age of the Synthesizer (1982, and specifically when Men Without Hats were releasing records), which is definitely a good thing.
On Spiders it sounds like Elbogen is playing organ, which adds a lovely drone behind his guitar, tinkling synths, and light vocals. And of course, who doesn't love a song about eight legged bug exterminators!
Zero to Love is so emo in that it is a cute, sensitive song. The lyrics on the chorus repeat the phrase
This new heart of mine
goes from zero to love in no time
over a catchy beat and meandering synth. Despite its relative cheesiness, this is my favorite song on the disc.
Well, you get the point. Synths dance, guitars strum, percussion thuds, and Elbogen sings about geek life in what i find to be a realistic manner. I enjoy this record, perhaps not so much as i enjoyed the previous release, but i still find it a refreshing and fun listening experience. I hope that Say Hi continue to do what they do. And i will continue to listen.