Why ask Why? It's a loaded question 

On Eskimo Snow, the indie hip-hop band continues to put on indie-pop airs

“I’ve been mostly listening to stuff that will put me to sleep,” says Why? frontman Yoni Wolf the morning after a tour stop in Los Angeles, where the band plans to use an off-date to shoot a music video for a track from Eskimo Snow, its latest release on the Oakland, Calif.-based Anticon label. The statement is somehow unsurprising. Besides the elusive nature of quality shut-eye on tour, a quick study of Why?’s lyrical output reveals a man in possession of an incessant inner dialogue and a particular preoccupation with the weightier end of the subject-matter spectrum.

The songs on Eskimo Snow and the band’s previous release, Alopecia (both were recorded simultaneously during a recent, and particularly frigid, winter in Minneapolis), are intricate musings on mortality. Were they not delivered in Wolf’s unmistakable, speak-sing delivery and backed by such luscious, careful instrumentation, they would almost certainly be a drag. Instead, they are lively and bursting with character. Unlike early Why?, which was hip-hop influenced by design, the newer albums shimmer with a refined indie-pop sensibility. But don’t expect them to settle. “I wouldn’t say [Eskimo Snow] is an indication of where we’re going necessarily,” Wolf says. “The bits and pieces that I have written for the next record are more lyrically rhythmic, intricately rhymed,” he continues, though he balks at the suggestion of a total return to form. “I have some sound ideas in my head that are quite different.”

Avant-garde hip-hop heads might label them traitors to the sound they helped invent, but Alopecia is Anticon’s highest-selling release to date. And, according to Wolf, the turnout at the band’s shows reflects its surging popularity. “This tour’s been pretty out of hand,” he says. “The crowds are a lot larger than before.” The band is touring as a five-piece comprised of Wolf’s brother Josiah, bandmate Doug McDiarmid, and Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson of Minneapolis experimentalists Fog. “Having more people allows us to do more,” Wolf says. “It’s a little wilder.” With the band’s Atlanta show falling on Oct. 31, expect a spooky good time.


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