Say Hi (no longer to your mom, or anyone in particular), is the moniker of basement recorder Eric Elbogen, the contemplative dreamer whose sixth album is the first to come out on the Barsuk label. Oohs & Aahs carries the musician’s signature homemade feel, not due to random background noises or lack of recording quality, but in the sense that you can detect the songs’ construction. Opener “Elouise,” for example, begins with a lonely bass line that is eventually joined by guitar, drums parts, and synth as the measures progress, one after another so that when the whole is achieved each part is still distinct. This one-at-a-time assembly feels appropriate for a band that is actually just one dude, and his stacked parts and knack for catchy melodies build into pleasant, emotionally rich numbers. In rhythm and drive, they tend to soar with a hint of 80s nostalgia, while the sometimes Nirvanaish guitar lines root Elbogen in indie singer-songwriterness.
Bright and peppy, Oohs & Aahs is certainly not a downer at first listen, but lyrically it betrays a bumbling, lovelorn soul. Half of the ten tracks contain a lady’s name, and nearly all of them dig into Elbogen’s desire for acceptance and his apparent lack of dating skills. The lonely strums and fanfare synth of “Maurine” give way to wailing regret with “But Maurine, I can’t come to your party, ‘cause I think that I’m dead,” while the giddy handclaps, spastic beats, and droning keys of “One, Two … One” sound like a sports montage before revealing “But I could never see how someone as soft and sweet as you could ever be with me.” The shaker-happy “Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh” is perhaps the disc’s peppiest song and its least sad, explaining an adorable crush that hasn’t yet burned him. AND it names drops Built To Spill’s “Randy Described Eternity.” Elbogen may be struggling on the inside, but he’s not afraid to share his universal woes, or to shroud them in pleasing low-fi pop.