20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Why?’s Eskimo Snow by Eric Vilas-Boas
Why?'s Eskimo Snow works incredibly well

Why?'s Eskimo Snow shuns the hip-hop but still works incredibly well

PREVIEW: DOWNLOAD Why?’s “This Blackest Purse” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 14/20 Watts

While Eskimo Snow isn’t quite the jaunt through alternative hip-hop that its predecessor Alopecia was, the always-inventive Why? strive to keep things interesting and mostly succeed. In a weird indie rock parallel to Lil’ Wayne’s insistence on releasing a rock album this year, Why? have put together both a well-informed rock record and a worthy follow-up to their past work.

You might miss their hip-hop sound, but the quintessential Why? elements are present on Eskimo Snow. Classily-orchestrated instrumentation like the keyboard intro to “January Twenty Something” and the lush swell of sound before the chorus of “Against Me” captivates the listener before Jonathan ‘Yoni’ Wolf gets to his lyrics.

On most of the songs, rather than tell a clear story, he presents listeners with a series of threaded images. “This Blackest Purse” utilizes this technique masterfully against a melancholy piano line with the lyrics, “The poseur in the bowler gets shot first / Thinks he’s the shit, ‘cause he can spit and curse / Actin’ brash and flashin’ a pistol that squirts / Scowling and shouting ‘Shall we dance?’” The lack of narrative is at once fascinating and humorous.

But perhaps the album’s most notable asset is what makes it so different from Alopecia. The final three songs that close the album are folk-rocking ballads that would do Jeff Tweedy proud, and are a far cry from “By Torpedo or Crohn’s” or “Exegesis” on Alopecia. Rather, Wolf sings about going to “Berkeley by Hearseback” and “speak[ing] at an infinite decibel” in the aforementioned “This Blackest Purse.” The title track closes the album’s ten songs with a fade-out and a degree of old-time country style that Alopecia’s finale didn’t and couldn’t have.

However, despite Wolf’s lyricism, Eskimo Snow has its problems. The piano and keyboards that we love so much figure too similarly throughout the record, leaving something to be desired in terms of song variety. They aren’t bad songs, but most of them do follow the same patterns, which works against the album as a whole.

Why?’s unpredictability has always been one of their most entertaining aspects. Eskimo Snow is something both unexpected and generic, which is strange, but understandable, considering the album plays like not much else in Why?’s discography.

— Eric Vilas-Boas

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