Why?

Moh Lhean

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The mysteriously titled Moh Lhean is the sixth studio album and Joyful Noise Recordings debut for style-bending indie rock project Why? It shares its unexplained name with the home studio of its main man, loquacious lyricist Yoni Wolf, who produced the album along with his brother/frequent collaborator Josiah Wolf. The first album since Why?'s debut to be wholly home-recorded, it's still rich in sound and feels typically spontaneous for Wolf, if with a weightier, more reflective tone than in the past. That's not to say Why? has lost its playfulness. The song "George Washington," for instance, follows "The Longing Is All" in the track list and opens with the line "I wrote a song called 'The Longing Is All' instead of calling you." Wolf's half-spoken melodic delivery, which can evoke They Might Be Giants at least a little, comments and contemplates amid layered production that includes sound effects and field recordings in addition to various keyboards, guitars, strings, woodwinds, and percussion. Performances were provided by the Wolf brothers and several guests, including Ryan Lott of Son Lux, who supplies "voices" to the trippy closer, "The Barely Blur." Beyond Yoni Wolf's lead vocal, "One Mississippi" unfolds with echoing female vocals, recorded conversation, finger snaps, whistling, xylophone tones, and percussion that sounds more like found objects than studio equipment. It's all wrapped up in a catchy cadence that spirals into a round of repeated vocal tracks and twinkling ambience. While there is a variety of palettes, with "Easy" being more acoustic and "The Water" more atmospheric, they all feature a level of percussive heft that makes for substantial listening. Still decidedly offbeat but not as manic as some of Why?'s prior material, Moh Lhean sounds a little more mature, but only relatively speaking. The project remains a creative burst of sounds, grooves, and stylized observation that's uniquely refreshing to those open to its quirky complexity.

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