It might come as a surprise to see Michael Cera, most recognisable for comedic roles in Arrested Development and Superbad, releasing a full album. In fact, the young Canadian has maintained a music career alongside acting for almost as long as he’s been in the Hollywood spotlight. He has contributed bass guitar and backing vocals to both the soundtrack of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and to live shows across the globe with indie rock “supergroup” Mister Heavenly.
Fittingly for a musician who has operated somewhat beneath the radar up to its release, Cera’s debut True That is a lo-fi, low-key affair. It was recorded using Garage Band and made available without fanfare for free, infinite streaming via Bandcamp, accompanied only by a charming photograph of the artist at play with the child of a family friend by way of an album cover. On first listen, the sound too could be described as subtle, though there are depths of melancholy tenderness and charm to be discovered by those who delve further.
The sound here is ethereal: virtually free from percussion or electric instruments, its experimental melodies are most often blended simply from piano and acoustic guitar, and as many tracks are instrumental as feature Cera’s high, lilting voice. Whether thanks to the unsophisticated recording process or the physical condition of the instrument itself, the piano sounds ancient, lending instrumental tracks such as Moving In and Kettle the smoky, antiquated atmosphere of jazz lounge 45s.
Elsewhere, the presence of melancholic guitar rhythms and Cera’s equally melancholic lyrics make clear the album is of the present, with off-kilter melodic structures marking it out as hipster folk à la Bon Iver (see closing track Those Days). The whimsically gentle wit of Cera the comic actor is a unique feature: when the eponymous Ruth departs the song in which she features, the protagonist is left lamenting “the ruthless light of day”, and samples taken from a real news report in which the unimpressed correspondent is set upon by insects create an amusing through-line.
Though there’s little doubt that much of the attention that True That receives will be the result of its creator’s popularity in performing his “day job”, it is a sweetly delicate record that’s deserving of attention in its own right.
True That was released on 8th August 2014, for further information or to order the album visit here.