THANXFDR: ALOPECIA by Why?
In this heartwarming seasonal series, the Crossfader staff will be running you through some of the media-related things that they’re most thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!
“I’m not a lady’s man, I’m a landmine, filming my own fake death” pines Yoni Wolf over explosive bass to begin what I genuinely believe is one of the greatest albums written in the history of recorded music. With his opening line, Yoni tells the listener exactly what they’re in for; an album about mortality, striving for fame and notoriety to the point of self-destruction, and perverse, embarrassing mishaps into romantic relationships with women. I discovered ALOPECIA when I was sixteen, just beginning to drive on my own, and this album became a constant in my car stereo as I hurtled through Southern Colorado at night with my friends. Between 2010 and 2012 I listened to ALOPECIA at least once a week, if not more frequently, and I don’t believe I would be who I am today without it.
Divided into roughly four acts, this is one of the most cohesive and mesmerizing concept albums I’ve ever heard. Wolf’s “Why? character” (as he has referred to him in the past) is reeling from the deaths of his father and a long-lost lover. Whether these people are literally dead or simply metaphorically dead to the narrator is entirely up to interpretation, as are the majority of the lyrics on this record, but the narrator’s painful sense of loss shines through regardless. As the album’s fantastic cover art suggests, the narrative regularly drifts into the realm of the unsettling and majestic. Eventually it becomes impossible to distinguish which lyrics are conscious thoughts and which are subconscious revelations in dreams.
Yoni Wolf’s unique style of sing-rap is the perfect way to deliver his confessional and surreal lyrics and he’s expertly backed by his brother Josiah and the rest of the band. The music on this record ranges from moody and abstract hip-hop beats to orchestral indie-pop, and each track has a unique sound and style, which only bolsters Yoni’s consistent thematic musings. Stray lyrics from one song will bleed into the background of another track three or four songs later, creating the sense that the same thoughts continue to swirl through the narrator’s head even as he moves forward in confronting his grief.
And he does confront his grief. A big part of what makes the album so satisfying is the arc that it possesses. When the second-to-last track, “By Torpedo or Crohn’s” begins, Yoni’s rapping is clear, sharp, and determined, a perfect mirroring of the second track “Good Friday”, with its hopeless and unfocused stream of consciousness style. All the things agonized over for the rest of the album are given conclusions here. On becoming famous, Yoni concludes: “Only those evil live to see their own likeness in stone.” In regards to death and what comes after life, the chorus goes: “I can decide while I’m alive, I’ll feel alive, and what’s next, I guess I’ll know when I’ve gotten there.”
This is more than an album to me, it helped shaped my sense of humor and my (admittedly bleak) outlook on life. Music discovered between the age of eleven and seventeen has such a strange and powerful impact on malleable pubescent brains, and I’m incredibly thankful that ALOPECIA was one of those albums for me. It opened my mind up to so many new styles of hip-hop, and it pushed the boundaries of my musical taste way beyond the punk rock that was the staple of my sonic diet up to that point. I’ve fallen in love with multiple girls to “Fatalist Palmistry” and gotten over them to “These Few Presidents”. How many albums can claim to do both? Yoni, if you ever read this, thanks for crafting one of the most important pieces of art in my life.