ALBUM: Endless Wonder
ARTIST: Say Hi
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.”