Why? - Mumps, etc.
Yoni Wolf’s hipster-friendly fourth album is inventive but lacks heart
Yoni Wolf – part-founder of indie label Anticon and band leader of alt hip hop ensemble Why? – is the very definition of a musical hipster. He sports thick-rimmed glasses and a moustache; he crams high and low-brow references cheek by jowl into his lyrics; he shows a nonchalant disregard for the conventions of rap and indie-folk by mashing them together. This approach to music-making can often result in quirky arrangements and a refreshingly askew take on the world, but Yoni’s dispassionate detachment from his material – an enthusiasm for anything is anathema to hipsterism – means very few of the tracks on most recent album, Mumps, etc, have any staying power.
‘Sod in the Seed’ and ‘Paper Hearts’ are the two stand-out exceptions to the rule. The first (a former EP title track) strikes up a poppy tempo and throws up some funny lyrics (‘I can tell by your polo slacks, bagels and blank stares / [...] but who am I to judge a man's heart by his yacht wear?’), while the latter has Wolf spitting out bitter rants about a tired relationship in a rare display of emotion (‘During sex I might put us in some joke positions / But it's scary, always how we end up in mission’). Both tracks also distinguish themselves from the rest by maintaining steady rhythms; elsewhere, it’s all tempo changes and dropped beats, with a profusion of xylophones, harps, cellos, woodwinds and snatches of choral singing thrown into the mix in a desperate attempt at eclecticism. Mumps, etc is not offensively scatter-shot but it’ll take a few dozen listens before you’re humming along with any of it.