Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
A friend of the Daytrotter family came up to us at the opening of the great barn in Maquoketa, Iowa, prior to the final Barnstormer show of the spring and told us that he had something for us. He pulled a small plastic bag from his pants pocket and removed an even smaller plastic baggie from inside. This baggie contained two pieces of paper, in the size of fortune cookie tellings, and a figurine made of old circuits and fuses. He told us, "My dad makes robot jewelry and I wanted you to have this. Actually, I've got a couple more here, if you want them." With that, he hands us three more tiny, robot figurines. We thanked him and we brought them to the studio, where they now hang from the walls, with suction cups.
They look very similar to the characters that have appeared on the covers of Eric Elbogen of Say Hi, formerly Say Hi To Your Mom, albums since the project started in 2002. The background color -- some form of pastel or neon pastel -- is altered with every release, but the robotic figurines are comfortably similar, small and barely there. His records have names like: Discosadness, Numbers & Mumbles, Ferocious Mopes, Impeccable Blahs, The Wishes and the Glitch and Oohs & Aahs.
They bear identifying characteristics, but the music that Elbogen makes has continued to be enhanced and it has continued to evolve into a form that could not have been predicted nearly 11 years ago, when he was first getting his name out there. There were definitely more robots, more ones and zeroes in those early Say Hi To Your Mom albums, matching a heart-on-the-sleeve mentality with the method of emoting that was made for such a thing in the early part of the decade synthesizers and the bloops and bleeps that they can produce.
Of course, this was all just another and different way to make pop music, but the path that Elbogen has taken has led him to his current state, which is pushing into the kind of dark country folk territory that My Morning Jacket has been getting freaky with for years and years. The music seems to be fighting through those referenced mopes and blahs of the album titles, getting roped into something that stretches on and on like a cavern. He sings of the fires and the floodlights, all of the things that remain burning when we want them to and when we'd rather they just passed into their cold afterlives. There are lingering transgressions and there are desires to make bygones out of situations that will never be any less alive. There's a need for the seasons to change, but somehow the colors of all of them stick around, muddying everything into a pretty blanket of depressed goodness now moving in with jammy episodes and flash pours of agitated delight.
*Essay originally published May, 2010
Say Hi Official Site