Without sounding like the indie-rock equivalent of Adrian Mole, Yoni Wolf's writing is certainly getting darker. The self loathing, acute honesty and constant suicide mentions that made up Alopecia were buoyed by a dry wit that made you think that he was well aware of his failings but had them under control. Eskimo Snow was written at the same time as Alopecia and the difference here is the almost complete absence of the wit which works to expose the self-loathing in all its miserable glory. But it's glorious nonetheless and further goes to highlight Yoni Wolf as one of the best writers of our time.
We were warned in recent interviews by Wolf that Eskimo Snow would be the least hip-hop of all work as Why?. I found Alopecia tough to appreciate in its early days for this very reason and while these new songs make the transformation from odd-ball hip-hop to odd-ball indie-pop totally complete the jump doesn't seem as cavernous due to its predecessor and so my appreciation of this is more instant. I don't know of an artist to have made such a successful jump and while Eskimo Snow seems like the end of something that Alopecia started it signals a bright future for this gloomy chap. It's now possible to use the word 'gloomy' with the comfort and satisfaction you might when talking about a Morrissey record. This is a 'bare-bones' album, the most stark and revealing of all their work. The confessions of insecurity and discomfort aren't masked in clever rhetoric but laid out in sometimes crude honesty. It's like he's done with talking around the subject of his own patheticness and this album is the coming-to-a-head of many factors. After this things may be different, but for now this shit just has to be said.
This pinnacle aspect of the record can be seen in all its glory on Into The Shadows Of My Embrace. Opening with the confession, "Now the world is my good confessional monkey / But it'll take a bus load of high-school soccer girls to wash those hospitals off me," he then changes up the pedestrian tempo and launches into a relentless, pounding list of confessions. As he gabbles this list his honesty is barely containable and strains to keep up with the musical tempo that dictates. After all this comes the shrieked line; "Saying all this in public should make me feel funny, but you gotta yell something you should never tell nobody." It marks the loudest his voice has ever got and heralds in a new dawn of heavy, swirling guitars.
The lyrical honesty is not the only factor that makes Eskimo Snow so stark. The song structure is so different from Alopecia that it's hard to imagine them being conceived in the same sessions. Many of these songs make no apologies for going nowhere. They either build to nothing or don't build at all. They stare you square in the face declaring, what you see is what you get. Opener These Hands should be a closing lament rather than the chosen one to welcome us all to this record. It shuffles by almost unnoticed in its misery than fades from view leaving awkward silence. And the innuendo filled Even The Good Wood Gone spends its entirety promising a crescendo, but gives up. But in anyone else's hands this would smack as a bunch of semi-thought out sketches that shouldn't have seen the light of day. Under these guys it becomes a startlingly refreshing and intricately perceived album. In its barren focus they have coaxed some of the most beautiful songs in their repertoire. One Rose and Berkley By Horseback twinkle with fragility with their shimmering piano and Wolf's clear-as-day nasal delivery.
This is a worthy answer to the staggering Alopecia and even though it may appear to be the first full step along the indie-pop road, its unbridled creativity poses more questions about the future direction of this band than answers. It may not have the shining peaks of Alopecia, it is more of a blanket soaking, but its depth is unfathomable at this early stage. The Anticon hip-hop spirit lives strong in this record so I leave you with Wolf's mission statement on the penultimate gem, This Blackest Purse. "I want to speak at an intimate decibel, with the precision of an infinite decimal / To listen up and send back a true echo, of something forever felt but never heard / I want that sharpened steel of truth in every word." Not that he's ever done anything else, if this is the only hint at where we may find this band next, I for one am all ears.
9th Oct 2009 - Tumblr4
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