WHY?: Sanddollars

Throw Frank Zappa, The Notwist, Weezer, and Brian Wilson into the air and the eight songs that fall to the ground might resemble Sanddollars, a twenty-minute outing from cLOUDDEAD member WHY? (Jonathan Wolf). The follow-up to his 2003 full-length oaklandazulasylum and Early Whitney EP (and prequel to the upcoming Elephant Eyelash), the EP's a trip into eccentric, baroque noise-pop that's more interested in channeling Pet Sounds than anticon-styled hip-hop (scratching on “Vice Principal” makes the sole audible hip-hop connection, though doseone's screams are submerged within background vocals). Unlike past releases where Wolf constructed songs alone using samplers, guitars, keyboards, and drums, Sanddollars finds why? a quartet with Wolf joined by brother Josiah on drums, guitarist Matt Meldon, and 'utility man' Doug McDiarmid.

There's a nasal quality to Wolf's voice (even frog-like on one song) which keeps the songs from ever sounding too polished and some songs go through such rapid changes, they seem fragmented or unfinished. There are memorable moments, however, like the elegant piano line running throughout “500 Fingernails” and the imaginative integration of classical organ at its end, plus the nakedly exposed vocal in the piano dirge “Next Atlanta.” “Pantone Cyan” is strong too, lush carousel pop with an appealing vocal that downplays the nasal tone. The title song, guitar-driven rock sweetened with roller-rink organ, synths, and twinkling pianos, is perhaps the best thing here, the sound of Wolf attempting to create a perfect three-minute pop song.

May 2005