Local Wire


Filmmakers like to go on about how rhyme-slingers make such naturalistic actors, how the MCs' innate intensity translates well to the big screen. Oakland-based Why? makes an equally convincing argument for the viability of undie backpackers as high-caliber, indie-rock front men. Anticon Records stalwart/everyman Jonathan "Yoni" Wolf started Why? a few years back; an LP and two EPs later, his onetime side project is a full-fledged band that tests the very definition of hip-hop. On 2005's Elephant Eyelash -- a title that likely references the oodles of piano that adorn its dozen tracks -- Wolf sings, slings, and mutters his idiosyncratic blend of Gen-Y, autobiographical rumination and gonzo pop-culture paddy-wack with an un-indie, insistent confidence borne of years rockin' the mic. That Why? cuts are intricate, college-rock confessionals helps: "Gemini"'s long-distance love chain link is a nostalgic soup of handclaps, pedal-steel, and Marble Valley, while warm, wagging guitars, keyboard twinkles, and Beach Boys "oohs" make "Sanddollars" into a scenester ode worthy of "Float On" or "Cut Your Hair." And when Wolf insists again and again, on the heaving-ivory chorus of "Yo Yo Bye Bye," that "All these songs are sung on road trips," it isn't wishful thinking, but an understatement waiting to happen.
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Ray Cummings