Mmmmm…Michael Cera. What a tasty young indie-film dreamboat. Good news ladies and gentlemen, Cera is even more hip, talented, and dreamy than we previously imagined. The 26 year old alternative-superstar has dabbled publicly with music in the past, contributing to Weezer‘s ‘Hurley’, touring with Mister Heavenly, even performing a little while starring in Juno, but on August 12th the Actor went a step beyond and casually released his debut solo album ‘True That’.
Famed for roles in films ranging from Superbad to Juno, Michael Cera has well established himself in the acting world. ‘True That’ presents a series of lo-fi, folk influenced indie-pop that could soundtrack many of the films Cera has starred in. The surprise album doesn’t do much to beg for your attention, but subtly exists in its own quiet corner. Throughout, it feels as if Cera sits awkwardly in his bedroom while somewhat nervously playing these songs for the listener. The beauty of the album lies in the effortless lofi approach that gives a natural feel; this is an intimate performance that could be just for you. Better still, Cera’s on-stage and public persona matches up with the tone of the album, making the music feel all the more personal.
While some may be excited to hear Cera sweetly whispering love songs over an acoustic guitar, ‘True That’ offers a lot more. The first two songs don’t even feature vocals. Opener “uhohtrouble” rushes in with chaotic dissonance rarely heard on an acoustic guitar, followed by the fuzzy piano of “Moving In”. After a folky Blaze Foley cover, we finally get a taste of what Cera sounds like when singing his own tunes.
Michael Cera carries out the remainder of the album in a similar fashion. More than half the songs are instrumental, typically alternating between jazzy late night piano and quirked-out acoustic guitar. These lo-fi tracks showcase impressive melody for a solo debut, though at times the lack of structure can be a burden. “2048” might be the highlight of all the instrumentals: the synths’ gentle melancholic blur manages to maintain that intimate lo-fi feel while providing a little more clarity than some of the more disheveled compositions that preceded it.
‘True That’ still offers a handful of songs where the actor takes on a singer/songwriter role. These tracks find Cera strumming nonchalantly while sweet harmonies and melodic piano accent his thoughts. At times, early Bon Iver comes to mind, most notably on “Ruth” where his subtle layering is particularly effective. This and other vocal songs, such as “Steady Now” and “Those Days”, provide plenty of lyrical fodder for fans to obsessively muse over.
All-in-all, Michael Cera delivered on his songwriting debut. Some songs lack organization, and the lofi production could possibly be tidied up a bit, but Cera excels at creating interesting melodies and chord progressions. 18 songs seems overwhelming at first, but the brief instrumental breaks make the album significantly shorter and add variety that keeps things interesting for longer. Judging a release from someone so established definitely poses a challenge, but ‘True That’ brings plenty to the table, however subtle it may be.