Josiah Wolf, Jet Lag

Anthony Mark Happel

Josiah Wolf, Jet Lag [Anticon]

WHY? Drummer Josiah Wolf, son of a Cincinnati rabbi and lover of Thelonious Monk, is so decidedly understated as this record introduces its first few songs, it’s almost as if he’s embarrassed to be out front all alone. (He was also involved with the noted trio cLOUDDEAD before heading to NYC to soak up the jazz scene.)

He shouldn’t be embarrassed because his brand of low-key psych-folk floats in on genuinely likable songs (“The Trailer And The Truck,” “Master Cleanse” and The Opposite Of Breathing” are all solid.). The sound and tone of Wolf’s voice is remotely reminiscent of Daniel Johnston, who gets mentioned in the press material, but here it’s more sing-speak and far less spastic than Johnston, more controlled and sane, if you will.

Wolf adds kalimba, organ, bells, drums, etc. to his mostly effective guitar playing, and there is a serious quality to the playing in general, underscored by a sense of self-effacement and humility in the insular poetry of the songs. The vocal lift on “Ohioho” is mildly trippy, and straight out of the Mercury Rev songbook, but delivered without nearly as much whine and fanfare as MR. I even detect a trace of Chris Knox/Tall Dwarfs hidden in there, somewhere.

Nearly every song finds its level, and drifts along at its own pace, on its own trajectory, without regard for outside insinuations. Among these twelve tracks, even the stuff that feels slightly unfinished and demo-quality, like “Is The Body Hung” or “In The Seam,” can hang with the cool kids found in the other songs. But part of the appeal is that lo-fi “aw shucks” attitude. Impressive effort, and with the newfound confidence he should have from this project he could raise the stakes even more next time out.

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