Why?: Eskimo Snow

On last year’s Alopecia, one of 2008’s more unfortunately overlooked albums, Why? pinballed around the realm of indie rock, never pausing long enough to be labeled. Part pop, part folk, part rhythm-’n’-rhyme, the album never let down its creative momentum. That would suggest good things for Eskimo Snow, which came out of the same recording sessions. The material on Alopecia is meant to be livelier and tighter, on Eskimo Snow a little cooler and subdued. Unfortunately, it sounds like the material was split more between the best songs and, for Eskimo Snow, the leftovers. Eskimo Snow does have a different feel, as most tracks operate under an overcast of ennui, especially those on the record’s stronger second half: Acoustic songs such as “One Rose,” the lush “Berkeley By Hearseback,” and the title track offer the band’s moodiest folk, while the plaintive “This Blackest Purse” underscores its anguish with a light piano hook. These are Eskimo Snow’s defining highlights, making a restrained complement to the free-for-all of Alopecia, but the band would have done well to build around them rather than tack on the sessions’ lackluster excess. With lyrics clever and humorously crude, frontman Yoni Wolf has shown he can make good music from many states of mind, but Eskimo Snow needs sharper focus.

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