Review: Michael Cera - "true that"

Michael Cera - true that
(Self-Released 2014)

The burgeoning "lo-fi revival", tinged with tape hiss and cozy twee sensibilities, is a scene that thrives on lowercase anonymity. In a few minutes' time, an album's worth of crunchy tape recordings can quietly be uploaded to Bandcamp without warning or hype. Its recognition or lack thereof is left solely up to the subculture's hardcore devotee's: those who bravely browse the site's tags by "newness" rather than "popularity". Listeners are often reeled in solely by word of mouth, making their success, in a way, more "pure" than that gained due to a backstory or persona generated by a PR firm in hopes of catching Pitchfork's attention. That's why it's pleasantly surprising for me to see Canadian actor Michael Cera drop a lo-fi release like true that so discreetly and so well, blurring the line dividing the world of celebrity and that which the rest of us live in. Without announcement of his own, Cera has put out one of the year's most charming DIY efforts: it's an album that evokes the warmth and whimsy often evident in the soundtracks of films he's starred in while also mixing in bold experimentation that recalls Modest Mouse's Sad Sappy Sucker

Aesthetically, the album covers large area, borrowing Belle and Sebastian's hushed yet hip jazziness, the shimmering twang of Neil Young, and even a bit of possible influence from Erik Satie's minimal and entrancing piano compositions. Cera's fragile vocals warble against brittle and glistening instrumentation, they are buoyant, bobbing up and down atop percussive strumming and watery splashes of piano on "Steady Now". "Ruth" could be mistaken for an early Elephant 6 Collective recording, intimate and delivered intensely, propelled only by the steady rhythm of spaced-out chords and the occasional pulse of buttery slide guitar. The more complete tracks are complimented by cute instrumentals. "2048" is an overwhelmingly chipper cut, its vibrant keyboard hum dances to handclaps and stomps. "Gershy's Kiss" is a quiet and soothing piano piece, the calms space between each note like the black alcove in the center of a candle's flame. If you enjoyed Alex G's DSU, released just a couple months ago, true that will blow you away.