Eskimo Snow, the latest album from anticon. sorta-rapper turned sorta-singer-songwriter Yoni Wolf and company, hits stores today. Regular readers of Line Out will know I am thoroughly stoked for this album. Let me attempt to explain why/explain Why?.
Eskimo Snow is Why?'s third album as a full band, but while predecessors Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia bore definite elements of live instrumentation, this is the first album that really sounds like a live band recording rather than some clever, multi-talented studio heads collaborating. Josiah Wolf's drums feel looser, they live in larger acoustic spaces, and they're left to stand on their own without the addition of any programmed drum machinery. Seattlite Doug McDiarmid's guitar and tight-circling piano tinkling are similarly unadorned. Fittingly, Yoni's songs here are further towards the folky/indie end of his spectrum (and thus further from the left-field hiphop end) than ever—there are still slight tics and cadences of course, but in general it's less rapping and more singing than on previous efforts.
As ever, Yoni's lyrics are incredibly tightly-wound, dense and hyper-detailed, full of clever couplets and tonge-twisting wordplay, and always, always obsessed with his own mortality (and, in neurotic, ever-tightening, navel-gazing spirals) with his own anxieties about those obsessions and his apparent need to perform them (on "Against Me," just before wondering, "will I gain weight in later life/and when will someone swing a scythe against me," Yoni asks, "am I too concerned wit the burn of scrutiny?"). I could rattle off a million little lyrical coups on this record (on the album's title: "all my words for sadness/like Eskimo snow on unmanned crosses"; on lost youth: "we found a dead fox and a dozen matchbox cars/when we cut back the hedges on Cortelyou Place"; on being a ladies' man as well as a land mine: "now my bike tire's flat/I must've run over some glass in the dark/or it might've got slashed/'cause I was messing around with someone's/ex-girlfriend/again"), but I'll leave the rest for the comments.
Eskimo Snow stems from the same recording sessions that produced Alopecia, but its songs were set aside to make for a separate record. At first—and this album was a totally slow-grower for me—this felt like a lazy way to pawn off some b-sides as another proper album, but over time Eskimo Snow revealed itself to be as solid and self-contained as any other Why? album, bearing out the band's talk of its distinctly different mood (the songs are less sly and sneering, more sorrowful and sentimental).
Go buy this album today, and listen to it deep and with no-sleep until Why? plays the Vera Project on Wednesday, Oct. 14th along with Mt. Eerie and No Kids.