This past Friday, Los Angeles based alternative-pop singer/songwriter Henry Hall released “Such a Bummer,” his newest single produced by Jack Grabow aka Sled Ellis. While the track strays from the more guitar-heavy instrumentation on Hall’s most recent EP, Questions, Comments, Concerns, Hall’s signature falsetto, harmonies, and witty lyricism once again bring to life our deepest insecurities and anxieties in a clever comedic twist.
I first happened upon Hall’s music while scouring a website featuring student bands at Wesleyan University, where Hall graduated with a Film Studies degree in 2014 (which may explain his use of a clip from the 1945 film Leave her to Heaven, a staple in one of the intro film studies courses, on a recent Instagram post about another new song he’s working on). Digging through Wes’ prolific music scene, I came across a song called “Oxygen” by Grand Cousin. The song stood out to me immediately for its driving rhythm and the lead singer’s (Hall’s) dreamy falsetto. I was hooked from the start and have been an avid listener ever since.
Hall knew “pretty much immediately” that he wanted to pursue music after college. “It’s what I really love,” he commented, adding, “I got drafted #1 overall to the NFL, but I decided to be an indie musician in New York City instead. I wholeheartedly regret this decision.” It perhaps should not have surprised me that Hall cracked a joke in response to just about every question I asked him. The unassuming funnyman paving his own way in music with songs about falling in love with his girlfriend’s sister (“Dream Lover“) and missing out on making out (“Missing Out on Purpose“) also happens to be the son of actors/comedians Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall.
Now back in LA, Hall continues to bring his sense of humor and wit to his music; “Such a Bummer” is no exception. “I wanted to write a song from the perspective of someone who is incredibly confident and completely insecure simultaneously,” explained Hall. “I think that both of those personality traits happening at the same time within someone leads to some serious tension and darkness but is also very funny. I hope that comes across in this tune.”
And it certainly does. While indeed funny, the song is at the same time brutally and beautifully honest. Throughout it, Hall casually gives voice to some of the anxieties and uncertainties most of us wouldn’t dare admit to in reality. His favorite lyric, “I think that this is a date,” at first listen may seem purely comical, yet by answering it with the question “Do you consider this a date?” and escalating the former into a scream by the end (he noted it was quite fun to yell this during recording), Hall is able to use this call and response to encapsulate anguish and inner turmoil through two seemingly simple sentences.
“Such a Bummer” is not Hall’s first foray into more electronically produced tracks with Sled Ellis. Those familiar with Hall’s work will recognize Sled Ellis as Ellis from Hall’s Introduction EP, released in 2016 shortly after a mutual friend introduced the two of them. The duo also more recently released “Fewer Words” in March 2018. “Just like with all of the songs we’ve put out, Jack sent me the instrumental [for ‘Such a Bummer’] and I sang a little vocal melody / lyrics over it. Then we worked out the form of the song together, he sent me the fully formed instrumental, and then I laid down vocal melody / lyrics over that. I absolutely love Sled Ellis’ production on this song,” Hall continued. “It’s so unusual and sparse. He’s great at laying out a feeling in a song. It makes it a lot easier to think of the lyrics/vocal melody.”
The production of the opening of the track in particular caught my attention right away for, as Hall noted, the feeling it created. The song begins with a slow, almost eerie crescendo before dropping out to a stripped-down piano progression that serves as the base for the song’s verses. But instead of kicking off the song right there, a woman begins speaking in French while Hall hums underneath. Together, these elements give the impression of being transported back in time to a film noir.
“That’s my friend Emma speaking French,” Hall commented. “I told her to send me a voice memo of her saying ‘my love is love’ and ‘my love for you is my love.’ She told me that made no sense, but she was a good friend and sent me her saying it in French anyways.”
And now, what you’ve been waiting for:
If you like what you hear, you can find more of Hall’s music on Spotify, Apple Music, and the likes, and be sure to nag him endlessly on Instagram to make sure he gets a full-length album out by the end of 2019! And no, I did not know a bee would be on the album art for this track, but I am ecstatic about it to say the least.
Oh, and Hall’s something sweet?