Now that WHY?’s latest record – the downright tepid Mumps, Etc. – as well as the masturbatory Golden Tickets, an EP comprised of, no joke, “theme songs” written for superfans of the band that were frequent patrons of the band’s online store, it would seem like the arc of this indie rock-minded hip-hop group has begun their nosedive on the descent into obscurity.
The last stop before that plunge comes in the form of their 2009 release, Eskimo Snow. Whatever it was the group stopped smoking to create the critically acclaimed Alopecia seems to have, ironically, mellowed out the group.
Where Alopecia was marked by a certain degree of intensity, even at times by over-the-top aggression (see: “The Hollows”), Eskimo Snow is almost universal in its adherence to mildness – so much so that, at times, it feels unlike the group at all, save for Yoni Wolf’s nasally, smoky tones.
Which, sure, works sometimes. “The Blackest Purse” teems with sadness, in which the lead Wolf asks, “Mom, am I failing or worse?” In these gentle moments, the band’s newfound politeness is quaint. Kind of adorable, really.
What doesn’t work is a song like “One Rose,” which is practically speaking a sheltered pastor’s kid in the light of the equality-believing, pro-choice heathen that is “Good Friday.” Thankfully though, that is the weakest point of the record, and one of the only moments that I skip past on the regular.
Though Eskimo Snow isn’t Alopecia, pt. 2, the group embraces frequent use of harmonies and a lot more piano-led tracks, with the addition of auxiliary percussion, like some sweet ass triangle and xylophone.
My favorite moments of Alopecia were those in which Yoni Wolf rapped until he was breathless. Here, his speak-singing far outweighs any attempt to build flow, which is off-putting as “Into the Shadows of My Embrace” seems to be the only song that leaves him winded. It’s a significant departure from this album’s predecessor.
It’s just different. A good different a lot, a confusing different some, and a bad different at others. At times, a very shrug-worthy record, but redeemed by tracks like “Against Me.” There is a palpable depression coursing through Eskimo Snow though, which may explain why its tempo is a slow burn.
Still into most of it. It’s the last time I felt really strongly about a WHY? release.
From Eskimo Snow, this is “Into the Shadows of My Embrace” –
Standout tracks: “January Twenty Something,” “This Blackest Purse,” and “Eskimo Snow”
Weakest track: “One Rose”