In the last five or so years Daniel Blumberg has released music under a number of different monikers, starting with the jaunty indie-pop band Cajun Dance Party, before moving onto his most successful project, Yuck, and also finding the time to release some solo piano ballads as Oupa. Blumberg only stuck with each name for one significant release, before moving on to the next, and now Hebronix comes as his fourth re-start, teaming up with ex-Royal Trux front man Neil Hagerty this time out. There are still hints of his previous work in Unreal; the jazzmaster is still his main weapon of choice as it was in Yuck, and the ballady side that he showed with Oupa crops up in small doses. As with his previous projects, Hebronix owes a debt to 90s music, but Blumberg has an ability to make sure it’s his imprint that you’re left with when you finish listening.
The shortest track on Unreal is “Viral,” which clocks in at five minutes – longer than all but the final track of Yuck – and the other tracks push the seven, eight or even ten minute marks. Just looking at these facts can give you an idea of the style of the album; the six tracks here are all very relaxed structurally, often eschewing percussion for periods at a time, allowing the guitars to stretch out languidly and for plucky keyboards to bob along keeping the songs afloat. Swirling around in the mix are chimes, violins and xylophones, which add to the summery dream-pop feel of tracks like “Viral” and the especially delightful “Wild Whim.” Elsewhere buzzing and intertwining guitars give tracks like “Unliving” and “Unreal” a space rock-esque lift. The somber closer “The Plan,” is built around arpeggiating piano and delicate atmospherics, which bring the album to a soft landing.
These shapeless songs fit in nicely with Blumberg’s lyrics, which often sound like an inner monologue, giving life to his inner thoughts and anxieties. In the demure opening track he speaks of “unliving for another day,” bringing atmosphere to the memories when he sings of “standing in puddles, feeling far away.” “Wild Whim” finds him pining over “the girl who doesn’t give a fuck,” with whom he’s spent sunny days simply walking around and back home. The title Unreal – and especially the title track – sum up the feelings and mood of the album well: lucid and amorphic, with a hint of poignancy. In fact the first lyric on the album is “Close your eyes and remember I am not in control,” which seems to be the way he’s approached writing these songs, in some regard.
Fans of Yuck who are coming into Unreal hoping for and album as plentiful of hooks as that album might be slightly perturbed at first not to find anything as tight or punchy as something like “Get Away” or “The Wall,” but after spending time with the album you’ll find that each song possesses an airy, sing-songy hook that’s easy to latch onto. For Hebronix it seems Blumberg is simply indulging his desires as and when they come to him, which leads to the extended track lengths. This means that Blumberg could take Hebronix in any direction he desires in the future – or he might just start again with a new project.