It’s safe to say that the world has changed a lot in the past 10 years. Listing all the things that are radically different is well beyond the purview of this humble music column. It’s easier to say that so much has changed that it’s harder and harder to find anything that has stayed the same.
Ten years ago, Ty Segall was at the center of an indie rock renaissance. A SPIN profile of Segall in 2012 notes that even back then he was “stupendously prolific,” having already put out four albums of grungey, feedback-filled rock, and a whopping number of collaborations. He couldn’t stop. A decade later, the indie scene that he dominated has mostly evaporated. But on his newest release, Hello, Hi, his consistency shines through. He’s as vital as ever.
The album is mostly acoustic, which allows Segall’s high-pitched voice and harmonies to shine through. Opener “Good Morning” is delightful and warm, “Good morning to you,” he sings as he breaks into slow and lazy “la la las” that might sound threatening if they weren’t so earnest. On the second track, with harmonies just as lovely, he spells out “g-o-o-d n-i-g-h-t.” It’s slightly creepy, slightly folky, and makes for easy listening.
The electric guitar comes out on the title track, bringing the fuzz rock that Segall can seemingly conjure from the ether. Segall’s lyrics mostly provide a vocal instrument to compliment his music, with the “h-h-h-h-hi” of a chorus playing perfectly with the increasingly intense riffs.
And then it’s back to the warmth-filled, slightly creepy acoustic songs. “You can’t erase, you can’t erase / You can’t erase the pain again,” he sings on “Blue.” Trying to figure out the exact lyrical meaning isn’t really worthwhile here, with the vocals complimenting the sounds of jamming and engaging harmonies.
This is Segall’s 14th proper album, and a far cry from last year’s hard-rocking Harmonizer. But like that album and Segall’s other great records, such as Melted and Twins, Hello has an irresistible quality. It’s extremely easy to go from listening to one Segall song to listening to them all, and on previous albums the only hindrance might be that you’ve grown tired of rocking.
With Hello the high moments are peaks amid very chill valleys. Reaching them, like the saxophones in “Saturday, Pt 2,” can feel like scaling a great height. Not that it feels like work to listen to the rest of the tracks. This is Segall’s version of easy listening, of music to get lost in while not losing your mind.
Hello is most likely a temporary divergence from business as usual for Segall. One can hear him getting close to bringing his normal fire and fury on several tracks, but he refrains. It makes Hello feel special, like a one-off that won’t be repeated again. Many things longtime listeners already love about Segall remain, like his gorgeous harmonies and layered guitar. Except it’s a little chiller this time. After all these years of rocking, he deserves a break. And you deserve to hear it.
David Meir Grossman is a writer living in Brooklyn. His Twitter feed is @davidgross_man.