Review : WHY - Eskimo Snow
PitchforkDuring an interview with Pitchfork earlier this year, WHY?'s Yoni Wolf called Eskimo Snow, "really the least hip-hop out of anything I've ever been involved with." This might just be a less verbally economical way of saying, "we did this with the guy who produced the last Clientele record." Wolf's got a dry sense of humor like that. It's telling that he put it in those terms-- though 2008's staggering Alopecia won plenty of well-deserved plaudits, the most often-heard criticism I heard was a bizarrely general one, essentially that listeners were expecting a hip-hop record and got subjected to 50 minutes of indie rock. The Anticon name must still be heavy in the streets, but the truth is, as long as Wolf continues to be as candid and vivid as he's been in the past, he'll have more in common with the expressionists of outre rap than the straight-laced indie vanguard.
To a large degree, Eskimo Snow comes off like an acknowledgment of that gap rather than a collection of songs culled from the same sessions that birthed Alopecia. For better or worse, Eskimo Snow eschews the musical and emotional contours of Alopecia for a resigned saunter to the gallows. The shift is made apparent from the album's killer first line: "I wear the customary clothes of my time/ Like Jesus did with no reason not to die." But as "These Hands" progresses, it never builds into a larger statement, just an insular word collage.
But thereafter, the latest from WHY? is almost completely devoid of the black humor that typically undercuts Wolf's most uncomfortable confessions, save for centerpiece "Into the Shadows of My Embrace", which serves as the album's reservoir of nebbish quotables. The drum roll that follows "it'd take a busload of high school soccer girls to wash those hospitals off me" could just as easily be replaced by a rimshot. By the song's midsection, Wolf can barely contain himself, hyperventilating, "I wish I could feel close to somebody, but I don't feel nothing/ Now they say that I need to quit doing all this random f-f-ff...," biting his lip at that last word, embarrassed as much by his situation as the ease of the rhyme itself....full text
DustedmagazineEskimo Snow arrives on the same train of thought that brought us last year’s Alopecia – both were written and recorded over the same period, and elaborate the same knotty relationship with mortality – but it’s smaller, darker, more obsessively intimate by a long shot. No veneer of abstraction or altruism here, no space for anything or anybody but Yoni Wolf, a character whose contours and psychopathologies are honed into ever sharper relief. Not a stitch of rap, either, but it’s hard to miss it at this point – Wolf has only gotten better since he trial-separated from backpack-hop and took up with the slanted, enchanted pop song. Eskimo Snow doesn’t estrange the two permanently, just dwells on a part of Why? that’s no less integral for having almost nothing to do with the leftfield hipness of the Clouddead pedigree.
Does it work? Of course it works. Wolf is the best unreliable narrator this side of David Berman or John Darnielle or pre-midlife Slug, and it’s a privilege and a pleasure as always to be let inside his head. But it’s also a little scary to be there now, a little unclear why we’re allowed in and very much unclear how to get back out. Even the most anodyne details on Eskimo Snow hook back to death (or to sex, which then hooks back to death). Decay is not only inevitable but the unifying logic of the album inside and out, the way it makes sense of the world. “A man should die gaunt / Not bloated and overdone,” Wolf begins in “One Rose.” “There should be new words hidden in the shadows on his face / And like a wine glass, in a perfect pitch he breaks.”...full text
CulturebullyWith the release of Eskimo Snow, Why? may have finally made the final step in their process from alt-rap to a full fledged weirdo art pop group. Starting with Elephant Eyelash and continuing on with last year’s amazing Alopecia, the group, fronted by merciful song smith Yoni Wolf, have stretched farther than I suspect anyone would have guessed. As a cornerstone of the anticon. record label, the group proved themselves adept at creating strange, melodic and arty rap music. Now with the stunning songs they have put together on Eskimo Snow (incidentally recorded around the same time as Alopecia), the band has created one of the more jarring records of the year.
Starting out with the plaintive ballad “These Hands,” Wolf begins the disc with his tongue in cheek wit, saying that he is “facing history, with little to no irony;” fans of Why? will find the humor in this statement. Those who are unfamiliar with the band will find out over the record’s 11 songs as Wolf laces together equally dark and surreal lyrics that help to separate him as a unique and virtually peerless lyricist. The album has a darker, more brooding feel than Alopecia however, with a sense of despair floating throughout its tracks. The music picks up ever so slightly for “January Twenty Something,” but Wolf doesn’t let the song’s quicker pace lessen his disconsolate wit. The track features Wolf’s abstract story telling, but its undertones revolve around the dark feeling of loss....full text
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