Local Wire

Why?

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.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Cummings