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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.
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REVIEW: Say Hi’s “Oohs & Aahs”

February 26th, 2009 by travis hay

I’ve enlisted some help with record reviews and features and the results are looking to be quite awesome if I don’t say so myself.

Below is one of the first fruits of collaborating in the form of a review of the upcoming Say Hi record “Oohs & Aahs,” which is set to be released on Barsuk Records March 3.

The review was written by my colleague Brent Stecker who authors the always excellent Tiny Strings blog. Expect to see more of his work, as well as the work of other music journalists, in this space in the future.

After one listen to Say Hi’s “Oohs & Aahs,” one thing is clear: Eric Elbogen spends a lot time in his bedroom.

It’s the only way to explain the exhaustive layering of keyboards, guitars, drum machines, shakers, and whatever else on the Barsuk debut for the Brooklyn-bred Elbogen’s main project (formerly known as Say Hi To Your Mom).

On Oohs & Aahs, Elbogen shows off his bedroom studio mastery with playful indie pop that has one foot in the electro camp. There’s plenty of toe-tapping beats and melody on the 10 tracks, with the occasional cheesy synth thrown in for good measure.

Prime example is “One, Two … One”, which draws you in with an irresistible hand clap/drum machine combo, only so a synth line straight out of an 80s cop movie can jump out and smack you in the ear. But it’s not long before some layered (and deceptively complex) guitar riffs appear on top of it all, making it all suddenly come together.

There’s plenty of craziness like that to be heard, as Elbogen seems to enjoy the dichotomies he can be create by twiddling the knobs and settings on his amps, pedals, and keyboards. As a result, there’s mixes of odd synths and basic acoustic guitars on “Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh” and “Maurine,” plinky keys and spaced-out guitars on “The Stars Just Blink For Us” and countering bass and drum rhythms on album opener “Elouise.”

While a lot can be said of Elbogen’s production skills, he obviously agonizes over his vocals as much as anything. Despite sounding like a combination of Ben Gibbard and Conner Oberst at times, he avoids getting stuck in one vocal style too often.

Though Oohs & Aahs does have some missteps — namely the too-poppy “Hallie and Henry” — they are more than made up for with “The Stars Just Blink For Us” (which is set up nicely by “Audrey,” a modest synthesizer ballad that clocks in at just over a minute and a half), and the spacey “Sallie’s Heart Is Stone,” which takes an ominous turn just as the otherwise wistful Oohs & Aahs comes to a close.

*You can catch Say Hi celebrating the release of “Oohs & Aahs” March 6 at Neumos with fellow local rising star Mt St Helens Vietnam Band. The show is acting as a CD release party for both bands.

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Music journalist Travis Hay drops some knowledge and insight about local and national music news, offers reviews and offers a place for conversation on all things music.