Review of true that
Michael Cera’s album is exactly what you expected Michael Cera’s album to be.
Ever since he sang Beck’s “Ramona” in “Scott Pilgrim Versus the World” or his Moldy Peaches cover duet with Ellen Page in “Juno,” many of us have been waiting for Michael Cera to drop an album. And he did. Beyonce style: true that was released on Mr. Cera’s bandcamp page (which features a 1940s-boy-scout-esque cover photo of the indie polymath in front of a tent as well as a chuckle-worthy biography) on August 8th, completely unanticipated. And true that is Michael Cera, or it would be if it were personified.
The album itself is a delightful hodgepodge of ragtime piano, nylon string guitar, and – of course – Michael Cera’s voice. There are several things about true that that make it engaging, especially its variety. It is clear that he is no novice to composition: the instrumental arrangements swing gracefully from chaotic and jarring to gentle by changing rhythms, modes, and artfully switching from piano to guitar, respectively, calling to mind meticulously-arranged albums like Matthew Friedberger’s Matricidal Sons of Bitches (2012, Thrill Jockey.) And yet, true that is easier to listen to than other complex albums due to its simplicity that lies in the recordings.
In other tracks, particularly the Blaze Foley cover, “clay pigeons,” he brings forward the American folk feel that stays an undercurrent through the whole album. It is worth noting that “clay pigeons,” as well as “Ruth” both offer traditional-style three-part vocal harmonies.The particular cover yields nothing new or exciting, but serves as a nice contrast to the previous two tracks and a pleasant homage to the original.
On a whole, the album is well balanced: not only through the composition but in its seriousness as well. Some songs have silly titles, (“uhohtrouble”, “Gershey’s Kiss,” and the pop-culture fad-referencing “2048”) and these do nothing detrimental to the album, but rather give it a sense of lightheartedness. true that, much like Michael Cera, is not something that seems to take itself wholly seriously, but still maintains its intellect.
Often, the sound buzzes or something is out of tune, maybe Michael struggles to hit a note (e.g. “Steady now”) but these do not sound like flaws. In the style of Daniel Johnston, Pavement, Sparklehorse, and countless others, true that’s imperfections remind us that the record is human: made by a human, for humans. It’s refreshingly natural in the musical atmosphere of post-production overtaking the industry today.
My only grievance toward true that is that it is presently only available on digital. Its DIY feel was charming above all, but I’m sure many would love to take home this record on cassette or vinyl.
Q&A With Michael Cera
Q: You’ve played in other bands, but up until now, the main focus of your career has been acting. Why release an album now, as opposed to two years ago or four years from now?
A: It just occurred to me one day to put the songs online so I did it, there honestly wasn’t any more thought put into it than that.
Q: What was your thinking in choosing a quiet, secret-release instead of hyping up what could have been the “Michael Cera Musical Debut Extravaganza World Tour Super Campaign?”
A: I didn’t consider it a secret personally, it’s just that nobody knew about it. And I didn’t want to pull focus to it because it’s not really something I consider a performance in terms of presentation, it’s just some music I made that I wanted to share via the internet with anyone who had any interest.
Q: There’s a lot of subtle similarities to other great records that show up here, what are some albums and artists that influenced your style on this record?
A: I don’t really know who influenced the style, I suppose my fairly limited abilities and resources sort of resulted in what ends up being the overall sound and tone of the music. But I like the album Mr. Hood by KMD and the way that it feels like it was made in their living room, I guess that was a sort of style influence in a weird way, the levels of comfort and relaxation on that album.
Q: Now you did pretty much everything that made true that, right? How was it playing all the instruments, writing, etc. compared to acting and being given a script and direction to do this and that in this way?
A: Well it’s kind of like the difference between being at work and being at home doing something you love to do on your own. It’s not really related at all I guess.
Q: You’ll obviously be busy with This Is Our Youth, but do you have any plans in regards to shows or touring for true that?
A: Not at all, I don’t anticipate doing that kind of thing.
Q: Do you drink your orange juice with pulp? If so, how much? If not, why not?
A: I’m not sure exactly, sometimes I think I do but then again I’m never really certain.
Q: Do you think true that is the beginning of a “rebranded” Michael Cera- that is, Michael Cera the musician? Or do you see it as just an extent of your polymathic career?
A: I’m not sure, I never ask the big guys upstairs (the two heads of the corporation I’m employed by) what the end-game master plan is, I just do what they tell me to do when they deem it the appropriate moment, and then I just pray that as a team we’ll weather the storm that is the open entertainment market.
Q: Finally, what has been your go-to record recently?
A: The Kinks – Arthur.
Madden CJ Aleia is a student, poet, and musician living in Connecticut. She recently became the assistant editor at bottle rockets press and expects to self-publish her chapbook, the bolsheviks didn’t even know what hit them, in early 2015. She has curly hair and collects elderly cameras. Fragments of her poetry can be found on her blog, unitedstatesofno.tumblr.com