By virtue of the very idiosyncrasies that make it special, this Oakland band's third album won't be embraced by all who hear it. It is strange, different, and therefore divisive. For starters, Yoni Wolf's voice, whether rapping or singing, often comes to an uncomfortably sharp point. His lyrics can be grotesque and impenetrable. Suckin' dick for drink tickets at the free bar at my cousin's bat mitzvah, he deadpans in "Good Friday." Billy the kid did what he did then he died sounds nice, but is it just a riddle? And who exactly are dirty-dancing, cursing, back-masking, back-slitting pastor's kids? There's a spoken-word artist, a post-rap poet performing inside him who knows the answer.

As compelling and musical as Wolf's words are, they're only half of Alopecia. Music need not be concerned with meaning, but this conveys much: the sound of a whistle, or maybe a child screaming, repeated at alternating intervals throughout "Gnashville"; a math-rock bassline alongside a strong beat and backward keyboard notes in "Brook & Waxing"; and the hyper-slow, distorted gangsta-beat of "The Fall of Mr. Fifths," spotted with congas, shakers, xylophone, and, in one place, seven seconds of guitar noise. WHY?'s best tracks sound great and happen to be unusual, not the other way around, and that makes them incredible. What will people think of this record? Different things, or nothing at all, but that won't stop it from being one of the most notable releases of the year. (anticon.)


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