When Why?’s Elephant Eyelash
opens, with some Sung Tongs
-esque drums and some sad, melodic guitar playing, it’s easy to write it off as another indie-folk album; at least, that’s what I was thinking it was when I heard the first thirty seconds of “Crushed Bones”. Eventually, however, Jonathon ‘Yoni’ Wolf enters, nimbly applying his deft flow and abstract and emotional lyrics to the band’s unique instrumentation. Wolf is also the best part of Elephant Eyelash
, yet it seems like this shouldn’t be so: his lyrics never make much sense and are, at times, bit too airy and whimsy for comfort, but the emotion behind lines such as ‘I want to always be on film/to be caught in the cut coffee sober’ and ‘tasting the tears that run down the gutter two teeth make/tears in route running a groove in your cheek’ is impossible to conceal.
These poignant moments-- where Wolf’s lyrics are at his most straight-forward-- are among Elephant Eyelash
’s best, but there’s plenty of good to be found in the more abstract moments too, especially throughout the beautifully building dynamics of “Waterfalls”, where Wolf raps ‘the erosions cries cause make whiskers prematurely sprout in men/and in women/homogenize complexion’ with a flow so simple and familiar that it might as well be your best friend rapping. While there’s nothing truly remarkable about Wolf’s rapping in a technical sense, it’s foolish to claim he doesn’t have reasonable talent: his deadpan tone and emotional tales of stoned afternoons and lonely alienation are an interesting mix, and one that’s certainly separates Wolf from the pack.
Wolf isn’t the whole story here: he surrounds himself with two good friends and a brother on Elephant Eyelash
, turning Why? into a band for the first time; somehow, however, this quartet instead sounds as if they’d been playing together for years. Songs such as “Sanddollars” simply couldn’t be tighter, as Matt Meldon’s emphasis on melodic guitar lines and Josiah Wolf’s simple yet proficient drumming combine to create a more-than-capable backbone to Wolf’s (the rapper) tale of a far-ago time. Elephant Eyelash
is awash with as equally impressive and oddly nostalgic moments, as if the slow-burning acoustic-rap of “Crushed Bones” and the strained desperations and thumping percussion of “Whispers Into the Other” are all something you’ve played in your head for years beforehand. It’s certainly satisfying to hear these songs-- songs you’ve basically already wrote-- finally drift out of your speakers.
is a memorable experience, and one that’s simultaneously light-hearted yet grounded and sometimes melancholic. The latter is all thanks to Wolf, whose lyrics and performance are more personal and depressing-- especially the defeated, almost pissed tone he takes in “Act Five”-- than he realizes. His band is more like an eternal ray of light, occasionally obscured by dark clouds on “Act Five” and “Fall Saddles”, but mostly playing sunny, accessible music. The two create a juxtaposition that defines Why?, and also-- as gay as it sounds-- defines most of us as people, which is ultimately why Elephant Eyelash
is such a special record.