Say Hi: Endless Wonder

Watching Eric Elbogen's career has been like watching a turtle come out its shell in slow motion, and Endless Wonder is perhaps Say Hi's most fully realized album to date.

Say Hi

Endless Wonder

Label: Barsuk
US Release Date: 2014-06-17
UK Release Date: 2014-06-17

Say Hi's Eric Elbogen has a well-documented fascination with vampires. 2006's Impeccable Blahs was exclusively about the pulse-challenged, and even before that, "Poor Pete Is a Bit Self-Conscious" told the story of a wayward wanna-be bloodsucker. No surprise then that the first half of Endless Wonder is the aural equivalent of watching a vampire dance party underwater. "Such a Drag" is all dark and sticky with twitchy guitars and tinkling bells. The narrative voice of "Hurt in the Morning" could easily be a contrite vampire (maybe a grown-into-his-fangs Pete) apologizing to his drained victim as he retreats from the gathering daylight. The root of Elbogen's fascination is unclear. Maybe it's the timelessness of vampires -- Elbogen is nearing 40 but makes perma-young music, all angst and heartache over moody soundscapes. Or maybe it's the late hour in which he writes that makes him feel connected to the undead -- Say Hi began (originally as Say Hi to Your Mom) in the early 2000s as an insomnia-fueled project that sounded not unlike a strummy Owen Ashworth.

Time, experience, and better recording equipment have stepped up Elbogen's sound to the point that Endless Wonder is the best-produced work of his career, and it more or less sounds exactly like one would expect of Say Hi at this point: deeply plucked guitar, ghostly keyboard, groovy bass, drunk synths, and digital detritus (clicks and bangs, to steal a title off the album). The most notable aspect of Endless Wonder is its most intangible -- how it represents the culmination of a slow progression in Elbogen's sound, album by album over 12 years, without becoming staid or way out of touch. On early tracks like "Kill the Cat", he whispered and mumbled and yowled over spare arrangements, a self-conscious delivery borne out of, one could easily imagine, self-consciousness.

Over the course of eight studio albums, he has continually built on the sound hinted at in early releases, filling out the soundscapes and turning his mumble into a syrupy M. Ward croon. While his sound has changed, the heart of his songwriting remains the same, coalescing around a particular set of emotions. Insecurity. Heartache. Regret. Longing. He gives lyrical stimuli on the emotional register of Sun Kil Moon but with the inescapably catchy beat of a dark surf band. Endless Wonder is distinctly cleaved in two: the vampire dance party first half, and the more sedate second half. "Clicks and Bangs" is a determined love letter that could be scaled up to an arena level, while "Sweat Like the Dew" is an austere piano-driven piece. This kind of mid-album divide can easily ruin a record's momentum, but here it actually pulls the album together and makes it feel complete.

Watching Elbogen's career has been like watching a turtle come out its shell in slow motion, and Endless Wonder is perhaps Say Hi's most fully realized album to date. He's not as paranoid or forceful as on, say, The Wishes and the Glitch, where a track like "Spiders" was a poetic self-doubt anthem, but he's more confident, and Endless Wonder sounds almost sure of itself. Like Elbogen's stumbling, bumbling, imperfect characters who learn lessons along the way, he's getting better at it all the time.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.