Words About Music
Michael Cera “true that”
What is the musical equivalent to pigs flying? A Drive Like Jehu reunion? A new Aphex Twin album? New Kate Bush tour dates? No… I think all of those had at least an ounce of predictability before they happened. I think the truest, purest musical surprise we’ve seen all year is the debut studio album by actor and part-time musician Michael Cera. Michael Cera got his big break by playing an awkward, soft-spoken teenager on “Arrested Development” and he hasn’t quite changed much since. You could say he continued playing the character of George Michael Bluth well into his late-teens and twenties in movies like “Juno,” “Superbad,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.” He did get the opportunity to branch out and play a coked-up douchebag in “This Is The End” as well as quite a bit of character development in the fourth season of the revived “Arrested Development.” Despite his involvement in quite a few musical endeavors—singing backup vocals on a Weezer song, performing in the Nick Thorburn-lead supergroup Mister Heavenly—no one could have ever anticipated that Canada’s sweetheart would have record a series of lo-fi bedroom pop songs in his house and release them quietly on Bandcamp. Yet it makes so much sense.
What I originally thought to be a clever hoax by someone from /mu/ turned out to be the real deal, and I don’t think I could be much happier with the way things have turned out. Being a fan of lo-fi recorders like The Microphones and Daniel Johnston and Moldy Peaches, “true that” is a record that is right up my alley. Most of the songs are instrumental piano or guitar tunes and there’s a lot of weird sampling and background noise, but the songs where Cera actually gets up to the microphone make me think that he’s a much more capable musician than he is an actor. The very existence of “true that” is legendary in and of itself, but think if Jonah Hill never tweeted the link to this album? What if Michael Cera put this album out under an alias and never recorded again, leading many to wonder whatever happened to the mysterious lo-fi Bandcamp singer?
But none of that matters. What matters is that it is 2014 and we have in our hands an album by Michael Cera. And unlike the music of several actors-turned-musicians (or musicians-turned-actors), “true that” is actually a decent collection of songs. It’s a relaxing startup kit to prepare yourself for long October walks. “True that” is a relaxing debut that, while it does find Cera sort of struggling to find confidence and identity, is a worthwhile listening experience. To perpetuate a cliche, come for the artist, stay for the music.
“True that” is a mysterious and lengthy little beast; it clocks in at 51 minutes if you include the three bonus tracks. Of course it’s not a perfect record. Anyone who is familiar with the lo-fi recording style knows that anyone who practices it is not trying to do something perfect. It’s certainly not an album I can see mainstream audiences enjoying very much. But I think it’s way better than a Michael Cera album has any right being, so for that I must praise him. There’s a decent amount of filler on this album, but I think if you get rid of those you’ve got about 10 good complete songs on here that would make for a killer album if they were released separately. Well done, Michael Cera. I’m excited to see what’s next.
SCORE – 7.3
FAVORITE TRACKS – Clay Pigeons (Blaze Foley cover), Of a Thursday, Too Much, Steady Now, Ruth, Oh Nadine (You Were In My Dream), Those Days, Play It Again (Roderick Falconer cover), Silent Struggle (I Was Blind)