7.8

WHY?: Sod in the Seed

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WHY?: <i>Sod in the Seed</i>

WHY? are set to release their fifth full-length album, Mumps, etc., on Oct. 9 via frontman Yoni Wolf’s own Anticon Records. It will be the band’s first LP since 2009’s Eskimo Snow, and it’s clear that WHY? were anxious to get back into the studio and cut some new tracks after their brief recording hiatus—not only will Mumps, etc. come out in October, a six-song EP, Sod in the Seed, will precede it on Aug. 14.

The songs on Sod in the Seed were taken from the same recording session as those that will appear on Mumps, etc., but they weren’t simply songs that weren’t good enough to make it onto the LP. They were songs that, while good, simply didn’t fit into the overall concept of Mumps, etc., and thus deserved to be released separately. It’s a good thing Wolf and his bandmates felt this way, as it would have been a shame if the songs on Sod in the Seed were simply left on the cutting room floor.

Since their debut full-length release, Oaklandazulasylum, WHY? have been known for their genre-straddling approach to songwriting. They employ instrumentation and effects that most relate with “indie” music, but traditional vocals are replaced by Yoni Wolf’s often-tender style of rapping. Though the delicate “indie” instrumentation and Wolf’s softened vocals place WHY? light years away from the rawness, hardness and bombast that many associate with hip hop, Wolf’s rhymes, flow and sense of timing are of the highest caliber. He invokes vivid imagery, tackles weighty issues and incorporates effective mini-narratives. He does it all with a crisp, in-control patience that should be what many MCs strive to achieve.

Sod in the Seed is more of the same from WHY? They aren’t making any large thematic or musical strides from their previous releases; it’s just more of what we have come to expect from the band, and this definitely isn’t a bad thing. Even for a six-song EP, however, Sod in the Seed is a short album, and some of its tracks don’t really stand alone as complete, fully-formed songs. This might explain why they didn’t have a place on the full-length. “Probable Cause,” for example, starts out with a promising story of a man trying to get out of a traffic ticket, but then tails off, finishing at only 1:02. The next song, “Shag Carpet,” only lasts 1:45 and the prior song, “The Plan,” is only 2:24.

The album’s best and most complete song is the title track, “Sod in the Seed,” which helps keep the EP afloat. Wolf raps with a concentrated intensity about “purchasing a refurbished Mac G4,” “pulling up to critical mass in and gas-guzzling Ford,” “sending out mass texts,” and other semi-topical, semi-privileged issues. The chorus airily laments never being able to “shirk this first world curse.”

While some of the tracks off Sod in the Seed do seem like they simply couldn’t make the full-length cut, songs like leadoff track “Sod in the Seed” are single-worthy, and “Shag Carpet” gives the EP strength on the back end. All in all, Sod in the Seed a solid all-around recording that serves as a nice preview of the type of sound fans can expect from the forthcoming full-length.