Say Hi - Endless Wonder

Bedroom pop genius dazzles and depresses with his emotionally honest pop sensibilities.

Additional Info

8.5

ALBUM: Endless Wonder

ARTIST: Say Hi

2014

Alternative

Eric Elbogen is truly an conscious entertainer at heart. At a recent live show in San Francisco, the multistrumentalist/now one-man-band who records under the name Say Hi announced to the crowd beforehand that he’d be running a Q&A session for himself between songs. The announcement got some mixed reactions from the crowd, but when he’d open up the floor to questions, people tapped into their creative sides to pose him ones like why he changed his name from “Say Hi to Your Mom” (he compared it to waking up in old clothes and wanting to put on a new outfit) and, to turn it back on him, what the meanest question he’s ever been asked, to which he replied firmly: “’When are you going to make real music?’” Clearly a jab at him using a laptop on stage, recollecting that moment brought him down for a second before he was ready to perform again. Behind the laptop, the love songs about androids and vampires, and the rad mustache is a humble human being who wants to breathe life into his music and his audience. On his eighth album, Endless Wonder, he transfers this modest charm and penchant for writing mopey love songs into an emotionally honest record that brings some humanity to the expansive world of electro-pop he’s battling for.

The most central element in Elbogen’s music is his unique voice—sultry and sensual and almost always couched in a cloud of reverb that carries it high above the mix. What’s different about his voice is that his breaths are so apparent. In a recorded setting, it’s unusual to hear that little touch, but it’s one that takes a record that’s heartfelt from top to bottom to an even more personal level. From this place, he delivers his clever and idiosyncratic lyrics he’s beloved for while projecting his insecurities and woes about love. At the start, the record is super groovy and danceable, but it slowly turns into something that’s murky and minimalist. In that way, it’s reminiscent of one of his earlier records, Impeccable Blahs. We see his cheesy musical touches, from the jaunty synth solo and excessively reverbed-out pre-chorus in “Hurt in the Morning” to his bombastic fanfare keyboard setting in “Love Love Love.” We even see him go full cheeseball in “Like Apples Like Pears,” a song literally about shaking your butt. But what separates this record from his rest is his raw, emotional material. He sings about the mundanity of love, the heartbreak, the unrequited feelings—all from his point of view instead of from those of vampires and androids. His voice is a powerful emotional vehicle that sometimes wavers under the weight of feeling. The record as a whole follows a great emotional arc, sort of like a parabola, that starts with the fun but not too serious first two songs and reaches a turning point after “Like Apples Like Pears.” The heartbreaking emotional climax is during the two song gut-punch of “Clicks and Bangs” and “Sweat Like the Dew.” It feels perfectly placed—you’ve had enough time to feel out the record and its build and you still have some time to cool down.

There are some records with an amazing arc that molds your moods and energies along with it. The first tracks are fresh and upbeat—they match your excitement about finally listening to this new record; they make you dance and laugh. Then you hit a point midway, when you’re really in deep and starting to drift off, that really hits you right in the heartstrings and reminds you you’re sitting alone in your room, in the dark. You really have a moment there with that part of the record, and you’re not sure if it’s just amazingly fitting with your mood arcs or if it’s influencing you subconsciously. But it doesn’t really matter. Endless Wonder is that record through and through, completely made for these kinds of listenings, to be shared or enjoyed all by yourself.

“I don’t need to be your wings; I don’t need to be your legs. I just want to be your love.”

1. Hurt in the Morning
Starting right off the bat with a cool stereo effect, you know Eric Elbogen is at the top of his creative production game—a singular buzzy synth line opens on the left speaker, and another from the right builds on to beef up the track. As an accomplished bassist himself, Elbogen’s basslines have always been overly visible in his music, but in a way that makes them shine as a central element. Here, the signature plunk-plunks of the bass add some pretty cool textures to the steadily growing mix of sound. His much beloved deadpan yet sultry vocals seals the deal; that feeling of affirmation that yes, you really are listening to a Say Hi record. In this song, he demonstrates that he can do a lot more with his voice other than sound sultry and deliver quirky stories: his harmonies during the chorus are so excellent as they narrate a potential one-night stand. From the jaunty synth solo at the end to his exceedingly reverbed out pre-chorus, his cheesy touches add healthy dose of charm to this side of the record.8.0
2. Such a Drag
Like he’s demonstrated countless times, Elbogen is a genius at creating sonic textures that sound oddly silly but are amazingly creative. The first twenty seconds of this number sound like a motorcycle rev slowed down to try to imitate blowing bubbles in milk. But beyond that is a brief, heavy-hitting song that really airs out his inner struggles. The piercing beat/synth combo cuts through the fog as he asserts that “love’s such a drag.” His decision to leave out most of the accompaniment in the second verse was an excellent one, as his passionately moody voice gets the spotlight it deserves. The arrangement of spacey synths and bass is a simple one, but it’s a completely compelling wall of sound.8.5
3. Critters
What a perfect ballad this is. Like most of his songs, you can’t tell where it’s going from the beginning moments. This one starts out with light keyboard arpeggios around a few chords, with a melody layered over produced by an instrument that sounds like a guitar and then a violin, though both were probably crafted by synthesizer. By the time his voice comes in, it becomes a moody love song that evolves into something like the bedroom pop version of lovelorn doo-wop ballad. The chord progression, backing “ahhhs” in the chorus, and the emotion-laden keyboard stylings like those Future Islands have championed in recent years make it a completely dreamy number that’ll whisk your lovesick self off your feet.8.6
4. When I Think About You
There’s something about this song that’s so intimate and sinister. It conveys the kind of quality that feels like you’re sitting in the same dark room as he is, surrounded by keyboards and amps in tight quarters. Pulsating beats and bass singularly command the soundscape for quite a long intro and provide a great foil to Elbogen’s echo-tinged vocals. A single note keyboard accent anchors the chorus and plays well with the subtle chord progression in the background. It really shows that simplicity is powerful. His arrangements all center around single notes, yet they resonate so strongly with the rest of the piece. As it goes on, it doesn’t sound as sinister as it does vulnerable. He’s really putting his emotions on the line, perfectly demonstrated by the song’s bookend “La la la,” which sounds purposefully sloppy as it fades out.8.6
5. Like Apples Like Pears
Many songs have been written about butts, but none are quite like this. Elbogen describes his record as one that you’d wiggle your butt to, and this one is the best contender to fit that description, quite literally too. His melting pot of synths, bass, and drums features some awesome diminished chords that anchor the grooviness as he describes so many kinds of butts (“bottoms making history all over town”) and impores the listener to “shake ‘em to the left, shake ‘em to the right [and even] shake ‘em all night.” Even the drums, from a drum kit, sound so full of life. The sense of humor he brings to a record that’s mostly been moody so far is such a treat. Can this be the dance anthem of the summer?8.4
6. Figure It Out
After that fun dancy number previous, this one serves as the perfect cool-down—distilling the heartfelt vocals of a ballad while remaining upbeat. The oscillating synth line builds as a really interestingly distorted drum machine drops a beat. But the tension the build creates is released when the bells come in. The rest of the track remains very simplistic and bare bones, with his voice really taking the reins. And what he’s singing about returns to the darker themes he visited earlier on. “Just can’t figure it out this time,” he sings in a mope, the kind of sound you evoke when you’re trying to hold back tears. While it’s sultry, it’s really quite heartbreaking. His vulnerability comes through to tug at the heartstrins, and it’s almost hard to listen to.8.3
7. Clicks & Bangs
Are those firework popping sounds the drum beat or his heart? Both, it’s probably both. He’s been slowly building toward it, but this may be the emotional pinnacle of this entire record. Music box bells twinkle in a slow-paced synth atmosphere. As intimate and minimal as it feels, the emotional heights he reaches are galactic. It’s always the simplest of structures that somehow feel the most special. His lyrics follow the pattern of, “I don’t want to be your…”, repeated until he reaches his thesis statement: “I just want to be your love.” He says this over and over too. Buzzy synths produce an emotionally anthemic climax to cue out the song that completes this perfect arc. This is really such a gem. Get some tissues ready.9.5
8. Sweat Like the Dew
He keeps getting more and more stripped down as this record goes on, but on this one, be actually gets acoustic. As a moody piano ballad, this works absolutely perfectly right after the emotionally intimate climax we just heard. The chord progressions he plays are simple yet work so well at conveying the perfect twist of emotions, leaving your heart in a messy bind. It isn’t as realized as “Clicks and Bangs,” but it’s still breathtakingly beautiful for what it is. This is a testament to how well he works in most every musical setting he tries out. Despite the lack of electronic, he makes his melodies and countermelodies sing alongside him.9.0
9. Love Love Love
As the album winds down, the emotional ballads continue to flow. This one changes up the pattern of balladry a bit by being the most percussive, almost bongo-driven by the chorus. Above all, it’s another lovelorn ballad, but surrounded by so many others of a different caliber, it becomes forgettable. If anything, the thing you’ll remember about this is his stereotypically cheesy use of the fanfare keyboard setting. It’s almost endearing to hear it in the middle of something so emotional, especially since he’s been singing about someone he cares about being in love with someone else, presumably. While it doesn’t have that je-ne-sais-quoi of the rest of the songs, it still works well with them.7.8
10. The Trouble With Youth
In a subtle way, Elbogen pulls all the stops to create a wonderfully culminating finale to this record. He brings back the music box twinkle, the dirgey synth waves, and even throws some horns that make it sound like one of the National’s more slow-burning songs. If this album were an essay, this would be one of those conclusions that summarizes the argument in a fresh and simple way. He even ends his narrative arc to a close, singing, “Come on, come on now, won’t you let me go to sleep.” Hopefully this brings him some closure. At least it implies it’s sort of a happy ending.8.3
Written by Hailey Simpson
Now attending college at UC Berkeley, Hailey's main passions in life are attending every concert she possibly can while keeping up with her studies, drinking copious amounts of Philz Coffee, and spinning tunes on her college radio station KALX.



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