Overshare and Share Alike
“I know saying all this in public should make me feel funny,” admits Yoni Wolf, in “Into the Shadows of My Embrace,” the stand-out song from his fifth Why? LP, Eskimo Snow. But, with Wolf, should is always the operative word, and the other half of the couplet effectively serves to confirm his raison d’être. “But you’ve gotta yell something that you’d never tell nobody!” he, suitably enough, yells.
It doesn’t take much to hear “Into the Shadows of My Embrace” as a kind of career summation; a “My Way” for an artist whose ways are the stuff of awkward confession via tangled-up syllables.
“I conquered my own childhood silence and now the world is my lit confessional marquee,” Wolf begins, and the subsequent verses find him moving through the recurring subjects that, from Clouddead through now, have marked his ever-impressive lyrical oeuvre: suicide, masturbation, mortality, dead animals, and, of course, the extent of his own emotional shortcomings.
You could make a case that “In the Shadows of My Embrace” is the defining song of Wolf’s constantly-confessional career. And its presence is a huge salvation for Eskimo Snow, which has to follow-up the defining album of Wolf’s constantly-confessional career, 2008’s almighty Alopecia.
Confessions Part II
Follow-ups are an onerous endeavour at the best of times; an artistic burden that causes so many to buckle under their weight. Eskimo Snow is doubly cursed by being not merely the follow-up to Alopecia, but that album's ‘sister’ set; a collection of not-hip-hop-by-any-man’s-measure songs initially recorded at the same time as its predecessor.
This makes it effectively impossible to judge this record entirely on its own merits; to measure it not by comparison, but in some state of critical isolation. Which means that Eskimo Snow is condemned to wear this tempered praise: it’s really good, but it’s no Alopecia.
A collection of sombre, piano-based songs, it’s clearly the saddest-sounding record Wolf’s ever authored. Befitting such, it’s his most exhaustive study of mortality; the songwriter seeing his body as decaying vessel (“One Rose”), using mummified Egyptian remains to consider his own inevitable burial (“Even the Good Wood Gone”), and accepting his inevitable place within the Jewish lineage (“Berkeley by Hearseback”).
Thankfully, for Why?’s ever-growing legion of fans, Wolf’s not dead just yet. On the album’s achingly-beautiful title-track/closing-cut, he repeats “I’m still here”; first with a sense of surprise, then with defiant pride. Still struggling to make sense of the world, Wolf can be sure in the knowledge that he’s still alive; his every yelled confession, “sung through speakers in rooms for people to hear it,” ongoing proof of his existence.
Record Label: Anticon.
Release Date: September 22, 2009