Why?

Eskimo Snow

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AllMusic Review by

Anticon trio Why? recorded Eskimo Snow, their fourth full-length, during the same sessions as Alopecia, which was released in March 2008, almost exactly 18 months to the day before Eskimo Snow came out. The album, which was being marketed as the "winter" side of the two, also features Mark Erickson and Fog's Andrew Broder, and is, altogether, a wholly more "organic" record, full of layered keyboards and guitars and gentle swells, and above all, a strong sense of melody, of those bits of pieces of songs that separate themselves from the chaff and hook themselves like burrs to your sweaters and uncovered socks. However, a winter album it is not. Eskimo Snow is a dynamic, nearly poppy record that finds lead singer Yoni Wolf slightly less verbose and esoteric than in the past. Which doesn't, of course, mean that every line, or even every song, on the album makes sense, and often the lyrics -- like many -- don't hold up upon close observation, but there are enough moments that stick out that Eskimo Snow feels more complete, more focused, than anything else Why? has created. "Against Me," one of the album's best songs, asks the unknown: "Will I gain weight in later life?/And when will someone swing a scythe against me?" as guitars and malleted chords pound in growing intensity, tapering off right before Wolf asks "Out of every woman on earth, who will I mate with?...Will all my unused seed collect like mercury?" The equally excellent "Even the Good Wood Gone," which, if not for it's rather macabre subject matter, might be mistaken for twee with all the plucked strings and major chord arpeggios it employs, plays with the metaphor of a "pharaoh...in/a shoddy school museum collection.../left not even with my death mask on" who can only mouth the words "No flash photography" again and again, which the frontman sings a bit disappointedly as the band goes into a nearly alt-country breakdown before building up again. The whole thing works extremely well, the combination of irony and drawn-out, peculiar melody exactly what fans of the band have come to expect. These same fans, however, might be surprised about how far Why? have moved from any of the experimental hip-hop that informed any of their (or Wolf's) earlier work, and even was present to some extent on Alopecia. Eskimo Snow is an album concerned with pop (albeit of a left-field variety), and so its setbacks are those of a pop album: the tendency to over-produce, the occasional forced rhyme, its overall...softness. Still, in spite of this, or perhaps because of it, Eskimo Snow is a success, a resilient album that combines melody, abstract references, and intelligent introspection in equal parts into something that grows more and more compelling the more times it's heard.

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