Say Hi: Endless Wonder- The 80′s were a time of transition in the music scene. With the developments of new technologies, sounds, beats and musical landscapes were being forged that were never before possible. But yet, even with the technological progressions, many musicians, it seemed, weren’t able to always get the desired effect they were looking for. Now, though, with the state of technology and surge of funding going into electronics made specifically for music, a new wave of eighties inspired tunes are beginning to seep into records once again. Say Hi is by no means strictly an eighties-style band, but the influences are programmed into most aspects of the band’s eighth record, Endless Wonder.
With all the synth, fuzz, and precise beats, Endless Wonder is surprisingly minimalist. Say Hi is a one-man band, comprised of Mr. Eric Elbogen. Mr. Elbogen records most of the instruments and tracks himself and appears to have a touring band. Many may think it’s not so surprising a solo project is minimalist; but with the sounds, beats and layers Elbogen produces, he could have stacked sounds a mile high. Now, minimalist is not synonymous with reserved or quiet. There are many instances of blaring synths, pulsing beats, fuzzed out guitars, its just he doesn’t layer five guitar parts over electronic beats, a drum kit and two pipe organs. Instead, he achieves a more dramatic effect by making each instrument purposeful and work cohesively with others to create the desired effect.
Almost more than the synths, electronic sounds and beats, Mr. Elbogen’s vocals are what bring to mind 80′s New Wave and the darker side of alternative rock/pop. He has a baritone that is reminiscent of the late Ian Curtis of Joy Division. His voice is deeper than most popular rock singers, which is a breath of fresh air. He also doesn’t try to strain his voice to hit notes that are out of his range, he keeps it simple in the best possible way, making the most out of his smooth, baritone vocals.
And with all these elements, Say Hi’s Endless Wonder coalesces into an indie, new wave inspired album that sets you in a dark basement club somewhere in New York City that only your cousin who smokes clove cigarettes and listens to cassette tapes knows about.
The second track and first single, ‘Such a Drag’, begins with simple electronic drum beats and a fuzzy synth line and out of nowhere kicks into high gear with a fuzzed-out guitar and chest pounding drums, especially the bass kick. And going back to the idea of minimalist, you may first hear this song and think otherwise. But again, minimalism isn’t about being hush-hush or barren of orchestration, but that with the few instruments you are using, you are able to play them off of each other to fill in gaps that would normally be filled in pointless, doubled or tripled guitars, keys or what-have-you. This song is minimalist while still achieving a driving heaviness. That heaviness is also produced through the repeated refrain, “love’s such a drag”.
The song, “When I Think About You”, is a perfect example of using few instruments to play off each other and fill in gaps. The bass plays straight, pulsing eighth notes while the drum part focuses on snare driven down-beats. The drums could easily be busy trying to keep up the pace, but instead, Say Hi use the instruments to their full advantage. This allows more space keys and other electronic sounds to accent the backdrop. While on the other hand, ‘Like Apples Like Pears’, the drums are in full syncopated force with a bass line that would fit perfectly into a prog-rock song. But while this is happening, the synth is doing its own little line, allowing breathing room in a song that could easily be too cluttered.
‘Clicks & Bangs’ is synth heaven, the closest to a power ballad Endless Wonder has. But even with dynamic and layered synths and prominent drums, it still doesn’t feel cluttered. It is sweeping and quite beautiful because even though the synths get boisterous, everything is still in balance.
I have never been the biggest advocate of things remotely related to the eighties, but it is albums like Say Hi’s, Endless Wonder, that reminds me I have been too quick to judge. This album takes the most inspired elements of eighties music and Mr. Elbogen makes them into something of his own design. There are other elements from past decades; 70′s prog-rock, 90′s grunge, and all these influences that are old are made new. Say Hi manages to create a unique and awesome record for 2014, while giving a nod to those that came before… 9/10
‘When I Think About You’