In the mid-2000’s, Yoni Wolf decided to turn a solo pseudonym into a full band and WHY? set off on charting one of the most fascinating career paths of any band in recent memory. After that 2004 turning point, WHY? would release what are widely, but quietly, hailed as classics in Elephant Eyelash and Alopecia, two chameleon-esque records that veer in and out of hip-hop, folk, indie rock, alt-pop, ambient, and a long list of other genres.
A dedicated fanbase sprang up in the wake of those two releases, prompting investigations into the group-specific slang that dominated Wolf’s lyrics. People forged intense, meaningful relationship with the work on display, which felt so offbeat yet intensely personal. “Suicide notes” was a phrase that was tossed around when it came to dissecting the band’s narratives, sometimes sung, sometimes rapped, sometimes whispered, and the hypnotically kaleidoscopic music behind those words elevated them further to an extent that came off as genuinely inspired.
Past those two releases, the band took on a few new forms and shapes, which unsurprisingly drew waves of conflicting opinions between the project’s most faithful listeners. Eskimo Snow, one of the band’s most gorgeously arranged and beautifully produced records, gave some fans pause as it found the band embracing their quietest sensibilities. The fans who loved that record, in turn, were thrown ajar by the band’s subsequent works which largely skewed more confrontational and abrasive, yet no one seemed to want to stop listening to any of it altogether.
Some EP’s, LP’s, and one-off’s after their attention-ensnaring run of early material, the band have arrived at AOKOHIO, which they’ve unveiled by parcel through video sequences that tackle the forthcoming record sequentially. While movements I and II were both fascinating in their own right, it’s movement III, Please take me home, I don’t belong here., that did the most damage.
Ostensibly, Please take me home, I don’t belong here., serves as somewhat of an open-hearted love letter to Wolf’s brother and extraordinarily gifted bandmate Josiah, whose contributions to WHY?’s instrumental template over the years have proved invaluable. Additionally, this run of songs also seems to be a half-buried plea for self-preservation. Miles Joris-Peyrafitte serves as the director and elevates each note with the type of grace and sensitivity that the subject matter deserves, turning the entire affair into a spellbinding treatsie on the nature of life, emphasizing its finite nature to an extraordinary degree without ever becoming hamfisted.
“The Launch”, “High Dive”, “Mr. Fifth’s Plea”, and “Good Fire” are the songs that are covered in the movement and each exemplifies the best qualities of WHY?, drawing directly from the past to shape their present. Please take me home, I don’t belong here. understands that relationship and navigates it deftly, allowing the clip’s subtext to suggest that beyond extending Wolf’s continued fatalistic obsessions, the end results can be boiled down to the micro and applied to the history of the band.
Footage of Wolf miming along to the song alone in a chair are interspersed with unearthed home movies of the Wolf brothers as young children, flooding the clip with the type of tenderness that so often bleeds into shattering emotional recognition. And sure enough, by the time the sequence comes to a close, it’s difficult not to be fighting back some stray tears. More than just being exceptionally well-crafted and executed, Please take me home, I don’t belong here. feels important; the product of a mind that’s always had too much to say to make room for the truths that too often go unsaid.
Gripping, tense, and deeply empathetic, Please take me home, I don’t belong here. stands firm as one of 2019’s most unexpected gut-punches. A devastating reminder of WHY?’s commitment to not only exploring their own artistry but the nature of humanity, dropping the sardonic wit that’s so often accompanied their incisive past self-examinations to simply lay every card on the table, look up, and allow something in that’s rarely appeared throughout their discography: hope.
Watch “Please take me home, I don’t belong here.” below and pre-order AOKOHIO here.