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Elephant Eyelash

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There were some glimmers of articulate clarity and likably wry charm amid the mumblings and meanderings of Why's first full-length, Oaklandazulasylum, but they hardly anticipated the dramatic leap forward into approachability that marked their second. ("Their" because, between the two albums, Why had mutated from an arty quasi-rap solo project alias to a full-fledged if hardly conventional indie rock band) Though still far from easily digestible, the challenges Elephant Eyelash presents aren't so much about trying to piece together a head-scratchingly oblique, willfully incomplete puzzle as simply taking the time to process and integrate its veritable flood of musical and, especially, lyrical content, an outpouring suggestive of a long-withdrawn, self-absorbed introvert who's suddenly become desperate to communicate with the world. What gets communicated -- in essence, the manifold nooks and crannies of Yoni Wolf's psyche -- is by turns playful, philosophical, insecure, morbid, and sentimental, and while that communication is still happening on Wolf's own terms -- which means reams of voluble verbiage peppered with nerdy absurdities, cleverly convoluted wordplay, and free-associative filigree, usually delivered in a nasal, over-articulated singsong that was really his only viable remaining link to hip-hop (and a pretty tenuous one at that) -- the upshot is a singularly striking set of images and insights well worth the scrutiny. Somewhere between intimate journal entries and free-form poetry, these songs float from factual, anecdotal snapshots -- like a vivid depiction (in the opening verse of "Sand Dollars") of watching a water-based graffito dissolve in the rain, or the casual specificity of "Yo Yo Bye Bye"'s scene-setting opening lines: "I was walking through San Antonio before soundcheck/looking for some pole to do pull-ups on" -- to probing meditations on aging and mortality (brooding closers "Act Five" and "Light Leaves"), inscrutable phantasmagoric whimsy ("The Hoofs"), and coded but no-less-heartfelt ruminations on love, loss, memory, and the alarming intensity of human connection (perhaps most affectingly on the wonderfully imagistic "Gemini (Birthday Song)." The subject matter can get fairly weighty, sure, but it's tempered by Wolf's deft balance of wit and sincerity, and by the delicately skewed indie pop backing of his bandmates. Indeed, Elephant Eyelash's music is nearly as remarkable and distinctive as its words; wispy, crunchy, structurally off-kilter compositions that are difficult to classify but favor a certain ramshackle charm and melodic sweetness, and in a few cases -- among them "Rubber Traits," "Gemini," and especially "Sanddollars" -- wind up feeling oddly, downright anthemic. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

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