Published Mar 01, 2017Yoni Wolf's journey from his left-field hip hop beginnings in cLOUDDEAD some 15 years ago to today has been fascinating — and troubling to those who enjoy easy genre descriptors. On Moh Lhean, his sixth solo album and first not on Anticon, Wolf has come closest to producing a batch of songs that could be described as "universal" or "accessible," with his most poignant and least outwardly weird lyrics yet. Here, he touches on yoga, meditation, breakups, ill health and suburban rhyme flow, among other things.
What has remained the same is Wolf's fine ear for orchestration. Songs begin with simple piano or guitar phrases only to explode in all directions with strings, noise, voices and all manner of musical trickiness. These silvery gray clouds of melody are lined with wordplay that collides with evocative narratives resembling, if you'll allow, a Dylan for these new ages. Some tracks, like "One Mississippi," have the syncopated snap of earlier compositions that recall his roots, but elsewhere, as on "The Water," Wolf is unafraid to embrace a warped folksy quietness that provides a different fit for lyrics like "After the hospital we head to the shore / I fill up the raft, yeah, you cover your cast with plastic bags."
The mortal, the mundane and its transcendence provides a through-line for the album, as on "Easy," which has choice lines like "Is that you / With a sack of DQ at the cemetery?" Moh Lhean is a stellar album that serves as a portrait of the artist as a not-quite-so-young man who's still finding weird new ways to pose age-old questions. (Joyful Noise)