Some bands make an unpolished masterpiece of an album and then go on to make more or less decent polished records – like Weezer. Some bands make so-so indie albums and then go on to make a slick masterpiece – like Jimmy Eat World and Bleed American. Some bands make great records, one right after the other, and you don’t think about the production values at all because – wait – they’ve never made a bad album. You don’t have to worry about what they will or won’t do, or what they will or won’t sound like. Say hello to Say Hi. (But for the record Say Hi, aka Eric Elbogen, records on a computer at home most of the time.)
It’s not a masterpiece – and let’s be clear about that – but if Oohs & Aahs is another step in the right direction, the next steps Say Hi takes could lead them to the album of their career. And Say Hi (formerly Say Hi to Your Mom) hasn’t made a bad album. That counts for something.
Oohs & Aahs is the best record I’ve heard so far this year, and that also counts for something. The diversity on the album is its greatest strength. It’s hard to categorize it. On “Dramatic Irony”, the music bounces through an almost Southern gothic dreariness. How a song can both bounce and be considered dreary is intriguing. On the next track, “Maurine”, keyboard horns belie a broken heart with such lyrics as “She’s a ruby and I liked red / Until I disappeared a little too well / I guess I should have kissed her / That one night when she was leaning in.”
Track three observes “She got lips like a sofa / And she’s strawing down a soda” which says it all, and it continues, “It’s the flip of her hair / It’s the sound of her verbs.” I want that girl to be mine, and I don’t even know her. It’s the description. It’s artful. It happens throughout the record: a simple, yet – in most cases – elegant observation unfurls itself here and there.
Say Hi has this thing they do with vocals: heavy reverb is added to punctuated delivery and what often occurs is a slight overlap in lyrics. On “Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh” it’s more than slight and “I got something I think I really want to tell ya” folds on itself. It’s quite inventive. On later tracks like “The Stars Just Blink for Us” and “Sallie’s Heart is Stone” such manipulation gives a Brit indie flavor.
Oohs & Aahs might be the best thing Barsuk Records releases this year. Yeah, that’s quite a leap of faith, but if my first few days of listening to the album are any indication, it won’t be falling out of rotation for quite a while, a catchy album without wearing out its welcome.