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Fruitonica 05-19-2009 08:57 AM

Why? - Alopecia

1. "The Vowels, Pt. 2" – 4:04
2. "Good Friday" – 3:50
3. "These Few Presidents" – 3:04
4. "The Hollows" – 3:55
5. "Song of the Sad Assassin" – 4:13
6. "Gnashville" – 3:49
7. "Fatalist Palmistry" – 3:53
8. "The Fall of Mr. Fifths" – 3:16
9. "Brook & Waxing" – 2:35
10. "A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under" – 2:29
11. "Twenty Eight" – 0:44
12. "Simeon's Dilemma" – 3:33
13. "By Torpedo or Crohn's" – 4:04
14. "Exegesis" – 1:37

Released 2008, Anticon

The Anticon label is generally recognised as one of the most forward thinking collectives in hip hop. The most recognisable example being cLOUDDEAD an act which was continually innovative and excellent, with a strong folk influence and mind bending lyrics and delivery.

When cLOUDEAD split, Yoni Wolf began a solo career as Why? (although who needs a moniker with a name as awesome as Yoni Wolf?) and expanded his sound past even any uncoventional understanding of hip hop with Oaklandazulasylum, only occasionally retreating into a spoken word delivery.
For his next album, Elephant Eyelash he adopted a full band to provide the music and seemed not so much to be experimenting as simply switching genres, providing a full blown indie rock record.

With Alopecia he's retraced a few steps on his developmental path, back into a realm where it's hard to pinpoint his sound with such a conventional genre as indie rock. The best descriptor for this sound is the meta-genre pop, and it certainly has all the hallmarks of a brilliant pop album; catchy melodies, conventional song structures and most importantly, hooks hooks hooks which latch onto your grey matter on the first encounter and only sink deeper with every subsequent listen.

This immediacy of purpose is apparent from the very first track, The Vowels pt 2, the call and response rhythm of the bass and drums is powerful stuff. And then Wolf's vocals kick in, more prominent in the mix than his previous albums, and he sets his agenda for the album in the first line, "I'm not a ladies man, I'm a landmine filming my own fake death." . Sex and death. They are ubiquitous on Alopecia, and the gulf between them is filled with neurosis.

Wolf is a lyricist who mines the contrast between surrealist imagery and his own profoundly personal confessions. It is a combination that could easily leave only awkwardness, but the result is almost always engaging and often tender. A great example being the next song, Good Friday has a much softer folksy arrangement, and the intricate vignettes of the verses form a greater picture of the peculiar malaise of modern life.
it feels exciting touching your handwriting
getting horny by reading it and repeating poor me
intently staring at the picture of your feet on the sticker
at the r. crohn's exhibit, i wonder who's sicker

Next comes These Few Presidents, with a guitar that reminds me a little of Beck's Modern guilt, and a saccharine vocal delivery in the verses. At first the lyrics seem innocuous enough (for Wolf), but then the chorus kicks in and the drums fade into the distance, lending an air of devastating gravitas to the chorus.
And now these few presidents
frowning in my pocket
can persuade no god
to let me let you talk, oh
these few presidents
frowning in my pocket
can persuade no god
to let me let you off

The coin metaphor leaves the listener with a sense of desperate hopelessness watching it unfold.

Fatalist Palmistry is easily the most upbeat song of the bunch, with a truly uplifting chorus and twisting love story. Even here death is a constant concern, but now the mood is defiant not resigned.
but i am still alive and loving
wide eyed in my time
not a mummy shinking in its cloths

The Fall of Mr Fifths is another murder tale and spun with the hardest rapping delivery of the album. It's also a lyrical departure, there's nothing personal in it, rather it is cool and detached, Wolf demonstrates his hip hop pedigree, with an effortless delivery. And also some darkly hilarious lines.
i'm unavoidable like death this christmas
is this twisted why be upset
i never said i didn't have syphillis miss listless
hard like the bricks i pound my fists with
i mean she's hard like the bricks that i pound with my fists

The album is absurdly consistent, and if anything improves as it progresses, with the one exception of Simeons Dilemma which is only solid. I'll restrain myself from picking apart every song, but I can't help myself when it comes to the last full track, By Torpedos or Crohns. The music and lyrics are in a similar vein to Good Friday but their delivery is much more rhythmic and the soaring melody of the chorus is just about the most beautiful moment in the album. And fittingly it closes with Wolf pondering his own mortality.

will they map my skull and wrap my bones
when my wig is gone hmmm
i'll go unknown by torpedo or crohns
only those evil live to see
their own likeness in stone
my brother said that

Alopecia is the rare album that is at once completely accessible from the first listen, whilst offering something new each listen and rich lyrical depths for those willing to take the plunge.

Bulldog 05-19-2009 03:08 PM

I'll admit I wasn't really ready for those vocals when I clicked the video, but it still sounds very interesting - gives the music a very intriguing extra dimension.

Great job with the review. I think I'll be on the lookout for this one.

simplephysics 05-19-2009 03:46 PM

Everyone needs to get this album, great review.

I love Alopecia, it's absolutely genius. Yoni's wordplay is probably my favorite part of this album, who else can correct a line in the middle of a song so that it wouldn't end with a preposition? :D

He might have had a preoccupation with death, or took himself much too seriously when writing this album, but honestly I doubt Alopecia would be as good if you weren't forced to sit through semi awkward confessions about stalking people set to nice pop infused melodies.

Fruitonica 05-19-2009 06:30 PM

It wouldn't, would it?

Not to mention, his confessions are usually pretty damn funny in their own way.

'send a sexy sms to my ex's new man. because I can'

LoathsomePete 05-19-2009 07:10 PM

Good review, I've been meaning to look up cLOUDEAD for a while now and you've swayed me to not only download this album, but go back and see what they're all about.

Alfred 05-19-2009 07:50 PM

I really like the sound of this music. I've gotta get on that shizz.

LoathsomePete 05-19-2009 10:51 PM

Downloaded and listened to the album and I'd have to say that it was a pretty suburb album. My favorite song was "Black Friday" for obvious reasons.

Fruitonica 05-20-2009 12:03 AM

Great. I'm going to assume you meant Good Friday, otherwise I'm totally confused.

jackhammer 05-20-2009 07:05 AM

I have only heard this a couple of times and was a little disappointed because I really dig Elephant Eyelash which I have had for a long while now. I will have to relisten to this and become reaquainted with it.

Fruitonica 05-27-2009 09:57 PM

Huh, I was anticipating a comment on Ready to Die.

That was some fast mod work.

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