Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Cassette
There was a time, not so long ago, when Ty Segall was relatively predictable. A new Ty Segall record would inevitably be loud and fuzzy. It would, perhaps, dabble in glam or the heavier stuff; it would certainly be built with the live show in mind. It would also be, at the minimum, a pretty decent album. Consistently good garage rock records delivered quickly was the Ty Segall way.
This is no longer quite the case. Having played a major part in garage rock’s early 2010s revival, it seems Segall not only personally outlined the genre’s limitations but eventually started to balk at them. It made him audibly restless, and his output in recent years has grown increasingly episodic. 2019’s First Taste was deliberately written and recorded sans guitars, whereas its 2021 follow-up Harmonizer split that trademark guitar sludge with proggy synth lines. In the interim he dropped a free EP of Nilsson Schmilsson covers and composed a synthwave score for Whirlybird, Matt Yoka’s documentary on the TV news crew that captured O.J. Simpson’s flight down the 405. (Also in the mix: the third Fuzz full-length, plus a fairly experimental one-off with Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale under the name Wasted Shirt.)
Had it arrived in an earlier, garage-ier Segall era, the abundantly punctuated “Hello, Hi” might feel transitional. But all of Segall’s recent records feel “transitional” by that metric, insofar as they are the latest reorientation in a series of reorientations. With its desertified Laurel Canyon influences, we can, to some extent, interpret “Hello, Hi” as Segall’s re-embrace of the instrument upon which he built his name—its dead-center placement on the cover encourages this interpretation. Not counting the title track and its thick coating of Sabbathian fuzz, “Hello, Hi” is arguably the closest he has ever ventured to a proper Ty Segall Goes Acoustic album. But even at his most subdued, he’s unmistakable.
Written and recorded primarily alone, “Hello, Hi” has no overly lofty ambitions or overtly political concerns. It rarely veers out of midtempo territory. There is a comparative simplicity to its melodies, which Segall peppers with la-la-la’s and semi-oblique images: “bringing water to the oceanside,” a cement sweater, an ear upon the glass. It is grounded by the passage of time, opening with “Good morning, lady” and closing with him sing-spelling “good night” and “good nite.” Like Harmonizer before it, it’s wrapped up in a succinct 35 minutes.
But besides that, “Hello, Hi” gives as little indication of his next move as Harmonizer did of “Hello, Hi.” For someone so closely associated with a single genre, Segall has accomplished something rather remarkable in terms of audience expectations. No longer do we necessarily assume that the next Ty Segall record will be a great garage rock record. Instead, we’ve come to expect that it will be, at the minimum, a pretty decent Ty Segall album—and how he’ll go about it is anybody’s guess.