In my resurrected Decca/London records ‘World of …’ series I dip into the entire oeuvre of an artist to bring you a sampling from each of their many recordings. Today’s focus in on Seattle mellow-core artist Say Hi. What we’ve got here is basically a one man band effort, created and performed by Eric Elbogen. The records are deceptively stark, stripped-down affairs, with striking keyboard and guitar tones while literally littered with witty lyrical cleverisms. Warning: these are not often straightforward tunes. Elbogen makes you work to get the meaning and the hooks. But patience is rewarded with some subtle turns of phrase and melody.
2002’s debut Discosadness comprises the basic formula you’re pretty much going to find on the subsequent 11 Say Hi releases: carefully curated sounds and social observations, packaged in attractively minimalist arty design. From this first record, I was taken with “Laundry,” given its lovely whispery Velvet Underground vocal and guitar shuffle. It seemed a perfect way to kick off side one of our World of Say Hi faux release. From 2004’s Number and Mumbles I’ve gone with “A Hit in Sweden” for its electric guitar shots and breathy Momus-like vocals. 2005’s Ferocious Mopes has a vocal vibe that is a bit more Bernard Sumner to my ears, particularly “Recurring Motifs in Historical Flirtings.” On 2006’s Impeccable Blahs I just love the keyboard lead line snaking through “Not As Goth As They Say We Are,” the song is so Casio-licious! There’s more of the intriguing keyboard work, but in overdrive, on “Back Before We Were Brittle” from 2008’s The Wishes and the Glitch. It has got a Bleachers kind of sonic intensity. 2009’s Oohs and Aahs even offers up a hit single of sorts with “Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh,” which was also featured in the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love. Though, I have to say, “One, Two … One” and “The Stars Just Blink For Us” from the same album sounds pretty radio friendly too.
Kicking off side 2 of our World of Say Hi imagined album, the pretty precision of “All the Pretty Ones” from 2011’s Um Uh Oh. I love the ever-so-careful arrangement of instruments, how they sound organized just to better let each one enter and exit the song without being bumped or overshadowed. However if you prefer an acoustic country strummer, “Trees Are A Swayin’” is a departure for this artist and delightfully so. 2013’s Free Samples is largely a collection of instrumentals, animating all the classic flavours of ice cream. Yes, of course, that is what a banana split would sound like, wouldn’t it? Personally, I love the 1970s electric keyboard vibe on “Chocolate.” Keyboards figure prominently on “Love Love Love,” my selection from 2014’s Endless Wonder. Love is back in the spotlight on “Lover’s Lane (Smitten With Doom)” from 2015’s Bleeders Digest with its ELO drum intro and Robert Smith-like intimacy on the vocals. Elbogen digs into his pop bag of tricks on 2018’s Caterpillar Centipede, particularly on the album ending “Dreaming the Day Away,” an alt radio should-be hit single to me. Then it’s back to his syth roots on 2020’s Diamonds and Dohnuts. There were times this record took me back to my Yaz and Erasure days. But again I hear a bit Bleachers in the overlapping mix of keyboards and earnest vocals on tracks like “Grey as a Ghost.” And the hooks, of course.
The World of Say Hi is a fictitious album but the music and the talent are real. Check out the catalogue and put together your own mix from all this inventive, musical-ennui master.