Ty Segall | "Hello, Hi" | Drag City

Review: Ty Segall – “Hello, Hi”

National Music Reviews

Ty Segall
“Hello, Hi”

Drag City
Street: 07.22
Ty Segall = Crosby, Stills & Nash + Pantera

Ty Segall’s musical fecundity thrives on reinvention. “Hello, Hi” is Segall’s 13th studio album in 14 years. On paper, this staggering work rate suggests cookie-cutter repetition, but as Segall’s fans know and love, this couldn’t be further from the truth. With each new album, Segall casts off old ideas like worn-out clothing, venturing out in search of his next befitting disguise. Ask 10 Ty Segall fans to name their favorite album and you’ll get as many different answers. Naturally, some of his albums resonate deeper than others, but nothing ever feels halfhearted or undercooked. Plus, the next one is always already on the way. 

It’s tricky to paint broad strokes over Segall’s maze-like discography, but it’s fair to say that psychedelic garage rock is his bread and butter. “Hello, Hi” once again fits loosely into this genre, but it’s also Segall’s gentlest work to date. For most of the 34-minute runtime, the prolific songwriter steps out of the garage and into the bedroom, where his warm fingerpicking and exultant lyrics feel perfectly at home. From a pop music perspective, “Hello, Hi” is Segall’s easiest album to love. At times, it’s difficult to believe this is the same guy who is well known for screaming at audiences while wearing a baby mask and a fake umbilical cord.

Relative to the experimental weirdness of his past works, “Hello, Hi”—with its numerous, poppy, “la la la” hooks and straightforward songwriting—is a glaring outlier. Many pop musicians treat themselves to a period of unfettered trial and error at some point in their careers. Paul McCartney has his ambient techno album, and Stevie Wonder has his 90-minute opus about plants. For Segall, this paradigm is flipped on its head. Wielding exotic instruments and introducing his bass player as “The Philippines” is standard fare for Segall. The even-tempered folk-pop of “Hello, Hi” is his personal way of pushing the envelope.

Segall recorded “Hello, Hi” “mostly by himself, at home.” This state of isolation comes across throughout the album, where self-reflection and self-actualization are key themes. Much of the lyrical content is written in second person. Segall constantly addresses himself as “you,” like an actor hyping himself up in the mirror before going on stage. On “Blue,” Segall sings, “You can’t erase the pain, again / It lives inside you / Your color blue.” It feels like a genuine and hard-earned realization: Accepting ourselves—our shortcomings, our emotions—is progress over forcing a change. On “Over,” which recalls Graham Nash’s “Better Days,” Segall outlines his central epiphany: “I want to start over and do what I please / All the mistakes I have made are why I am me.”

A few albums ago, Segall grew sick of playing guitar and recorded 2019’s First Taste using Greek bouzoukis, Moogs and other obscure stand-ins. If the goal of that tolerance break was to reinvigorate a love for the world’s most popular instrument, it certainly worked. “Hello, Hi” is stuffed with gorgeous riffs and loops, mostly played on an acoustic. The opening ditty of “Don’t Lie” sounds like it was written by Cat Stevens in an alternate universe where he roomed with Dimebag Darrell in college. “Looking At You” has the bucolic entrancement of “Dear Prudence,” and perhaps the same drop-D tuning. The affecting climax of “Hello, Hi” comes toward the end of “Looking At You,” as Segall repeatedly belts, “I’m looking at you for the very first time.” It’s a triumphant and psychedelic moment of radical self-acceptance.  

The lead single and title track “Hello, Hi” is the album’s heaviest offering. It’s the only track on the album to skip the acoustic and reach straight for the distortion pedal. Sandwiched between two quiet and drumless tracks, “Cement” and “Blue,” “Hello, Hi” is a discordant visitor from a different Segall dimension, and it’s a bit jarring surrounded by a contemplative soundscape. Ultimately, it contributes the artist’s trademark harshness and fuzz that many fans will have sorely missed on the result of the album. 

For long-time followers that rely on Segall for regular doses of mind-expanding metal and shock value, “Hello, Hi” might not be the most satisfying collection. Instead, the album might prove to be Segall’s most widely appealing work. Drawing upon influence from Neil Young and The Beatles, Segall has found a momentary muse in tried-and-true popular music. The shapeshifting artist has managed this foray with the same tactics as always—creative freedom and extreme care—and the end result is glorious. This relatively mainstream-friendly album might not please every crowd, but for Segall, “Hello, Hi” is yet another impressive chapter in his fabled versatility. There’s no telling what comes next; Segall’s only blueprint is deviation. – Austin Beck-Doss

Read more reviews of Ty Segall albums here:
Review: Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin
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