For this sixth album from his band, which is now past its fifteenth birthday, frontman and creative leader Yoni Wolf has apparently condensed “the essential elements of Why? into a stunningly potent musical vision.” The fact that it runs at nineteen tracks, many of them under two minutes in length, with song titles like ‘Narcissistic Lamentation’ and ‘The Crippled Physician, tells you plenty about how diffuse, uncategorisable and idiosyncratic his music has always been, if this is apparently it at its most concise. It has always involved a blend of synth-driven indie rock and hip hop and on ‘AOKOHIO’, Yoni less brings them together than wanders between them, over the course of a thematically ambitious LP that’s split into six multi-song movements.
The aforementioned ‘Physician’ plays out over a squelchy beat, Yoni half-talking, half-rapping, and ‘High Dive’ sees him do something similar, only accompanied by a lively saxophone. Elsewhere, ‘Stained Glass Slipper’ is an exercise in handsome synth rock, while ‘Rock Candy’ and ‘Reason’ are quick-fire pop efforts. It means that AOKOHIO never quite feels as cohesive as Wolf apparently intended it to be, so it’s a good job that the album’s emotional themes do such a good job of providing a throughline and backbone instead; largely penned after returning to his home state of Ohio, the album sees Yoni drop his sometimes coy, sometimes inscrutable persona of the past in order to let us in on a period of anxious self-reflection. That, not the sonic or visual aspirations, holds the key to ‘AOKOHIO’.