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Monday, October 26, 2009

Why ask Why? It's a loaded question


“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.”

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(Photo by Jacob Hand)

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