On his fifth release, The Wishes and the Glitch, Eric Elbogen embraces change of all sorts, while still retaining his unique sound.Since last year’s Impeccable Blahs, much is different, as his Brooklyn-based three-piece, Say Hi To Your Mom, changed address (now Portland, Oregon), membership (adding Sam Collins), and even name (now just ‘Say Hi’). These and other changes have not caused Elbogen to radically reinvent his sound, but he has also not stuck himself in the mud. Wishes embraces more of a fuzzy, expansive sound, and Elbogen’s vocals are often given more force. Yet beneath it is still the same solid songwriting core.
The move to Cascadia provides the fodder for Wishes strong opener, “Northwestern Girls”. Such a ‘mundane’ subject for a song is something of a change, in and of itself: Impeccable’s tracks were all about vampires, and the three records before that were focused on robots. With its very fine beat and growing chorus, the limited but effective “Girls” both provides a nice introduction to Say Hi’s new approach, and still is able to stand on its own. The following “Shakes Her Shoulders” and “Toil and Trouble” both play darker, “Shakes” adding hand claps, “Toil” more rock guitars, but neither quite have the ‘hook’ of “Northwestern”. Better is “Back Before We Were Brittle”; big from the get-go, but also great in its quiet parts, the piece is both moving and catchy.
Sometimes Elbogen plays too restrained, such as with middle numbers “Oboes Bleat and Triangles Tink” and “Magic Beans and Truth Machines”, which aren’t allowed to grow beyond their simple catchiness. It is the record’s latter half where things get really different, whether the smooth-grooving of “Apples For the Innocent”, the darktronica of “Bluetime”, the more orchestral atmosphere of “Spiders”, or the fuzzy echoes of finisher “We Lost the Albatross”. But by and large, these forays work well, and keep Say Hi’s unique core. And “Zero To Love” delivers a great combination of the band’s traditional sad robot restraint, and their new, more expansive sound.
It wasn’t just Say Hi that changed: The Wishes and the Glitch is itself something new for the band. While being physically released in February of next year, Wishes became available for download months earlier. Even the group’s long-standing tradition of ten tracks per album, which had been constant throughout the first four records, was broken (Wishes has eleven). But more importantly, Say Hi’s sound has been given an appreciated update, without ever losing what makes that sound so special.
MP3 Stream: “Back Before We Were Brittle”