*Disclaimer, this article is not about Bandleader Henry Hall who dazzled listeners during the early 20th century with hits like "Jeepers Creepers," and "The Music Goes Round." Rather, this is an in-depth look at the album Neato by California Alternative/Indie artist Henry Hall.
Henry Hall began officially releasing music during 2015 with his five track EP entitled Henry Hall. Since then, he has released three other EP's; My Friends Don't Like Me (2016), Questions, Comments, Concerns (2019), and Quarantine Covers for Black Lives Matter (2020). Recently, he released his debut album Neato which consisted of 13 tracks in which Hall described his life, his thoughts, and expressed his feelings. In a recent interview with Hall, he expressed his emotions about the album's release by stating, "People seem to be tapping into the sentiments that I wanted to have portrayed by the record. So I'm pretty happy with it so far."
Mixed with depth-full lyrics and high-pitched vocals, Neato has been compared to the work of other artists like Father John Misty, or Vampire Weekend. During the interview Hall said, "To be honest, I haven't dug too deep into [Father John Misty's] stuff. I went to a show of his at the Hollywood Bowl, which was amazing. I went with a friend who was already a fan of his. He is an unbelievably talented guy; I'm honored to be compared to him."
Hall was exposed to music at a young age through his dad, Brad Hall. "My family is pretty musical; my dad is an amazing musician. He introduced me to pretty much all the music I know and love today." Hall stated. "We had a Smiths compilation in the car, and a Simon & Garfunkel compilation that we would listen to constantly. A lot of time was spent in the car because I'm from LA. It felt natural, I think. I remember I had some kind of OCD tendencies when I was a kid, and it would make me feel better if I heard a noise outside, or something in the world and related that to music. In my head there would be a call and then I'd do a little response back. Like if a car honked, I would honk back in a different rhythm. I think it's a psychological defect that it boils down to."
Additionally, Hall played in his first band when he was in the sixth grade called Bedhead. "We played Bar Mitzvahs" Hall said. "We had some insider connections."
According to Hall, he decided to name the album Neato because, "I'm always thinking about album titles and the order of songs on albums. Neato was just a word that I had floating around in my head for a long time and I wanted to name an album Neato for years. When I finally made an album, I was like, 'I want to name it Neato!' I think it has an old fashioned, and innocent, but also campy and funny feel to it. There's something sort of melancholy about as well. Like it's something your grandpa would say, so that makes me think of my dead grandpa. For how silly of a word it is, it actually holds a lot of meaning. I feel like that it's a metaphor for some of my music. On the surface, there's obviously a humors element to it, but if you look a little bit deeper you notice that there's more depth."
With Neato consisting of mainly falsetto vocals, one would think that Hall had vocal lessons growing up. However, this could not be further from the truth. "I'm not trained vocally; I've only taken two or three vocal lessons." Hall stated. "But even they focused on warm up techniques. I've never dealt with any hoarseness, knock on wood." He added, "I feel that with the falsetto stuff I'm the most fulfilled artistically, and the most cathartic from a creative standpoint. I get the biggest endorphin rush and the most euphoric feeling from when I'm singing in a falsetto. It's how I express myself and it's just naturally what comes. It comes with practice and I do a lot of singing in the car. That might be why as well, like why I'm able to do some of those higher notes. I like to sing in that harmony, and I listen to a lot of female singers. So maybe that has something to do with it."
Before Neato released on October 16th, track seven "Guy" and track eleven "Not in My House" were released as singles to promote the album. Each of these singles shared the same common trait of erupting in sound after a solid instrumental build up. Additionally, these songs helped the listener understand and anticipate what Neato would sound like. The music videos for each of these songs further broadcasted Hall's mindset about each track, and were overall fun to watch. According to Hall, "I'm in the process of making [a music video] for 'John the Dog,' an 'Alive, Annoyed' one, and one for 'Tattoo.' Those are the one that are in the works right now. I don't know when they'll come out or anything. I would suggest towards December."
Neato opened up with track one "John the Dog" in which Hall sang about wanting a dog when he was younger but, "My mom wouldn't let us/Mom wouldn't let us/Have a dog." Further into the song, Hall relates to writing songs when he was younger, because he is still doing them now. The chorus, "Now I'm writing songs about a made up version of myself/Just like how I used to write/Songs about a made up dog named John/John the Dog." According to Hall, he eventually got a dog when he was ten and named her Buttercup, "Yeah, we eventually got a dog, but it took a while. My mom is not really a dog person, but as a little kid I was like, 'I want a dog so badly!' I wanted nothing more than a dog. Little kids love dogs. But yeah when I was like five, we were not allowed to have a dog. But when I was ten, we got a labradoodle and named her Buttercup."
Track two "13 Besties" followed the same energy as "John the Dog" however the lyrics came at a faster pace, and were more rhythmically involved with the instrumentals. The music video for this song showed Hall playing each instrument simultaneously, while another Hall flipped through numbers written on pieces of paper. This motion of flipping through pieces of paper shared a similar vibe to the music video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues" by Bob Dylan. According to Hall, the creation of the video for "13 Besties" was helped by futuristic technology, "Well I had to clone myself, legally I can't really discuss certain things that happened along the way with the cloning machine, but maybe in a couple years once a few things go through." However, he revealed that the video, "Was a really, really fun one to make honestly. I haven't done a performance-based video in a while, or I should say, one that reflects a musical performance. So, it was cool to play guitar, and play bass, and play drums and stuff in the video. It always feels kind of naughty to have your instruments outside and in the grass and stuff. I'm very careful with my musical toys, it was crazy, I was like 'I can't believe I'm outside with my bass right now!'"
"Life of Me" followed "13 Besties" and showed a more exasperated side of Hall's personality. During the song, Hall showed how tired he is of constantly giving himself away to people. The lyrics, "Here is my broken heart/Here is my credit card/Now you can have the life of me/Me, me, me" as well as "Here is my cereal/Some reading material/Now you can have the life of me/Me, me, me." Helped present this idea of wanting to remain independent, despite being pulled apart limb from limb.
According to Hall, track four "Nervous Cousin" was his personal favorite because, "I like the arrangement, it's a nice blend. I listen to a lot of music that has acoustic arrangements, and electronic instruments featured as well. When a song can blend the two, I find myself being very impressed and happy with the sound. It's hard to do because it can be corny if you don't do it in the right way. But I feel like 'Nervous Cousin' hits the mark. The drum pattern is on a loop and its sampled kind of, but it also sounds real at the same time. The bass is a synth, but then there's also a real bass, and some effect on some background vocals. It's a nice mix of different elements that I like from an arrangement perspective." This statement couldn't be more true. The vibe to this song was excellent, and the lyrics about wanting to help someone who doesn't want help were empathetic and relatable.
Following "Nervous Cousin" were the songs "Tattoo" and "California" which held a very similar vibe with one another. The tempo to each track was slow, which made the listener focus on Hall's lyrics. From these songs, the listener learned that Hall is indecisive about getting a tattoo, and adores California. These themes are shown through the lyrics, "Not nearly decisive enough/To get a tattoo" and, "California, California/California, California/California, California/California."
Track eight "Cozy Dying" began the second half of Neato on a more melancholy tone. During this song Hall sang about wanting to die in a similar manner to his grandfather "I know that I need to be cozy dying/It worked for my grandpa, man, he wasn't crying/Therefore, I need to be cozy dying, dying, dying." The soft instrumental work on this song helped establish a cozy feeling, while also revealing a very personal memory of Halls'.
The song "Monica" instantly lifted the mood after "Cozy Dying." This was due to the track's upbeat tempo and hilarious lyrics. In this track, Hall sang about a hookup he had but couldn't accept the fact that his hookup's name was Monica. He sang, "Too nice/Too nice of a name to be called that/Gotta be a more fitting moniker to/Occurred to me that you do all this 'cause/You make me make me come." Further into the track, he changed her name entirely to something that he thought would better suit her – the name "Monnie."
"Alive, Annoyed" followed the same type of comedic elements as the song preceding it. This track sounded similar to ballad-style song that one would hear during an '90s dance. Although a ballad traditionally attempts to move couples together, this one sought to drive them apart. This is heard through the opening lyrics, "Baby/Under the moonlight/You are annoying me/Tonight/Baby/Keep your clothes on/Because all we're gonna do/Is fight."
Track twelve "Football Now" began with Surf-Rock style guitarwork, and opened with the lyrics, "At a comedy club/Is where I found out/I don't like to laugh." The reoccurring theme of this track was about not enjoying where you're at, or what you're doing. During the interview Hall related this tongue-in-cheek way of writing to his song "Proverbial Ice" on Questions, Comments, Concerns. "This idea, or feeling that I get when I'm in my car and I'm about to get off an exit that is part of my life and routine. And this thought pops in my head where I think, 'I could keep driving. I could ditch everything that I know and start over. Have a totally new life.' 'Football Now' is a version of that feeling, because I'm like fuck music. Just fuck it. Like I only want to focus on Football, something frivolous, or something that doesn't have actual significance. It's not something that I have anything invested in. I think that's a healthy impulse. I find comfort in knowing that I could ditch everything, it is possible to leave that safety net, but having that safety net is some solace."
Neato ended with the song "Son" in which Hall sang, "I'll never be open to the idea of/My son being left out/I don't care if it builds character/I need him to be happy always, always." This somber sounding song revealed how Hall loves his son who hasn't been born yet, and how he'll make sure to keep his son included. During the interview Hall stated, "It's definitely a projection of what I felt often as a little kid. But it's also a song that looks toward the future and sort of a light of positivity to end the record. The other tunes are either in the present tense, or past tense, so I thought there was something to sing about the future."
Overall Neato was definitely an album that needs to be listened to before 2020 ends. It hit all the boxes of being funny, inspirational, and witty; while each song also included catchy lyrics. According to Hall, this album was, "Unbelievably fun [to make]. That's really what I'm in it for so to speak. Releasing the music fulfills me less, the actual process of making the record is really what I enjoy the most. I love going to the studio, and the feeling of leaving the studio after a great day of recording is the best feeling in the world." He added, "I worked with my good friend and extremely talented producer, Dylan Bostick. He produced Questions, Comments, Concerns as well."
With merch eventually on the way, listeners can also expect a vinyl release of Neato. Although Hall warns, "Disclaimer though, that will take a little bit longer."
- "I'm Just A Guy" Henry Hall Opens Up About First Studio Album ›
- Henry Hall Debuts First Studio Album Neato ›
- Henry Hall (@henryhallmusic) | Twitter ›
- Henry Hall Shares New Song and Video 'Not In My House' ›
- Henry Hall Shares “Not in My House,” A Wonderfully Unhinged “Ode ... ›
- Henry Hall on Spotify ›
- Henry Hall - 13 Besties (Official Video) - YouTube ›
- Henry Hall Announces Debut LP, Shares Video for New ... - FLOOD ›
- Henry Hall (@henryhallmusic) • Instagram photos and videos ›
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- See Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Son Henry Hall's New Video - Rolling Stone ›
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- Henry Hall Will Soundtrack Your Weekends in Bed - PAPER ›