Three years after WHY? turned the oft-boxed music world on its cauliflower ear with a pair of odd pop stunners—Alopecia and its quieter cousin Eskimo Snow—these meticulous and morbid Midwestern men return refreshed, a new album in the holster and an EP for your immediate enjoyment. Sod in the Seed is a scion of the WHY? To come. Sure, there's familiarity to glom to: psych-warped sunshine choruses, folksy jangle, internally knotted rhyme schemes, confessionals cut with wry wit and crude details. But these new songs also signify a general toughening up: Yoni Wolf, Josiah Wolf and Doug McDiarmid in the pocket, the unbreakable rock core at the center of a spinning ball of sound. Far from their native Cincinnati, the band spent a month and a half in the Denton, Texas, studio of Centro-Matic's Matt Pence, and wrangled an ace crew of University of North Texas gunslingers to exact their wilder schemes: woodwinds, horns, strings, a choir. While the interim between WHY? releases found the fellas turning out intimate tunes for lucky fans (via their Golden Ticket contest) and intricate beats for rapper Serengeti's praised Family & Friends LP, Sod in the Seed marks a genuine culmination. Here, the "blundering braggart" and his right-hand dudes detail dastardly deeds and hopeless romanticisms over a colorful and living score.
The titular opener builds upon the ambitious rhyme schemes and sardonic self-awareness of fan favorites "By Torpedo or Crohn's" and "The Fall of Mr. Fifths." The upbeat rhythm and bright hook belie Yoni's words—a damned if you do or don't treatise on first world problems. "For Someone" takes a different tack, unraveling a series of arcane directives via fake bookcases, coded frequencies and ragged maps—a mystery, essentially, left for the woman who would meet our anti-hero at the precise coordinates as dawn breaks. While "The Plan" offers buzzing, bluesy Americana, the brief "Probable Cause" blows through on a tropical breeze. And with its blooming brass notes and vibraphone plinking, "Twenty Seven" could pass for a Magnetic Fields standout, albeit with the aloof braininess swapped out for relatable intimacy: "I am no longer your unsure lover/I pull nothing from a flower." Finally, Sod in the Seed ends where it began: Yoni unspooling swaggering raps and backwards brags, but this time over a Reichian choir and orchestral percussion. Produced by the Wolf brothers and mixed in Atlanta by Graham Marsh (Cee-Lo Green, Katy Perry) with Yoni, every song pops exactly as it should, smearing genre with pointed intent until the end result is a gorgeously articulated work of unusual artistry and catchiness—a WHY? record, of course.