Um, Uh Oh

On Say Hi's 2008 release, The Wishes and the Glitch, the band's chief songwriter (and only full-time member) Eric Elbogen delivers a gushing love letter to the "fresh-faced" girls of the Pacific Northwest, crooning, "It must be in the air heeeeere..."

At the time, the Brooklyn transplant was obviously invigorated by his new view: clean air, pretty girls, untapped inspiration—all a romantic songwriter could ask for.

Now, more than two years later, it's clear the long-term exposure to the Northwest has affected him in a different way. This year's Um, Uh Oh is a sad (but endearingly so) collection of songs about unrequited loves, failed relationships, and busted hearts. Elbogen has ditched the shallow metaphors of albums past (vampires, robots, androids, etc.), and as a result, Um, Uh Oh feels like the most honest Say Hi album to date.

On "Dots on Maps," Elbogen wistfully recalls the moment two people realize their relationship won't last forever. "Shiny Diamonds"—a slow, soulful number with a ringing organ and a bluesy guitar solo—is about a beautiful woman who's utterly unobtainable by the poor, average bastard who admires her.

Sure, Elbogen is able to shake off the winter doldrums at times. "Take Ya Dancin'" starts with an infectiously bouncy guitar riff, and over it Elbogen happily promises to "take you dancing whenever you'd like," but even when he's singing "Lookin' Good," in which he does little more than insist things will be okay, Elbogen sounds fragile and empty, singing the words like he doesn't really believe them.

There is, in fact, something in the air here. And it'll eventually wear you down and make you miserable—but thank Christ some great songwriting can still come out of it. recommended

Say Hi's CD-release show is Fri Jan 28 at Neumos.