The Uncluded: “Hokey Fright”

Olympia resident, and girl-giant-loving anti-folker, Kimya Dawson has paired up with undeniable word genius, Aesop Rock, to record their first full-length album. “Hokey Fright” was released by Rhymesayers Entertainment May 7.

The Uncluded have proven with their new album that it’s hard to go wrong when you mix indie anti-folk rock and underground rap. You may even end up with an unprecedented album about abstract wisdom and mortality.
Before “Hokey Fright,” Rock and Dawson had collaborated a handful of times on Rock’s album, “Skelethon” in July 2012, and on Dawson’s, “Thunder Thighs” in October 2011.

Their stylistic sweet and sour clash mysteriously makes them a brilliant musical match.

This is the type of album that defies simple happiness, or sadness. Usually, you would be hard pressed to find a full length album that had even one song to accommodate all the possible emotions you could be feeling, but I would argue that almost every song on “Hokey Fright” is listenable to at all moods. The entire album encompasses the fact that emotions are way more complex than that. Dawson and Rock are both great at what they do: Dawson being straightforward, silly and wise; and, Rock being abstract, obscure (in a good way) and thoughtful. Together they created something that defies boundary lines of what someone should feel, and they tell it how it is. They put words to your uncommunicative thoughts.

Rock’s wordplay is so astounding, it is almost like hearing a stream of his undoubtedly eloquent consciousness. His flow is almost equally coveted.

Dawson, who has released an entire album of kids’ songs before, brings wonder and unadulterated fear, to many of the tracks on “Hokey Fright.” Between her tiny, super-packed-with-awesome voice and her subject matter that touches on the importance of organ donation (or, on healing skateboarding wounds with an apple Jolly Rancher, for example), some of the songs seem childish. But, definitely for a type of child with impeccable music taste, and a range of significant experiences.

Track two “Delicate Cycle” consists of Dawson and Rock alternating verses, telling the specific stories of the complicated relationships they have had with the people in their lives, and how those relationships, and all relationships (the ones they had with themselves included) are in a precious balance that is easily disrupted. It also comes with a snazzy video that was released in March before the album launched, and features a cameo by nternet super-feline Lil Bub and lots of washing machines.

Track eight “Bats” has got to be my favorite. I heard this song nearly a year ago, when Rhymesayers Entertainment dropped it last spring. It is a song riddled with references, and tells the story of their friend who died in the fall of 2010, rapper Eyedea. The song is heart wrenching and raw, dealing with the unspoken torture of internal grief, and a proclamation to work outside of modern life and death rituals. The mournful bass and low-fi guitar permeate the intricate wordplay, creating a whole, bold piece.

Track 12 “Teleprompters” is another to keep a lookout for, lest you casually listen to it and find yourself as a puddle of tears and confused feelings. It explores concepts of self-forgiveness and friendship.

Albeit, some tracks could be a little more clean cut. Dawson and Rock have discussed in several interviews that some of the vocal tracks were recorded on Dawson’s phone and cut in Rock’s home quasi-studio. Personally, this does not much bother me. Dawson is a legendary soft rocker, and Rock is one of the best lyricists in the game. This device particularly promotes the concept of art therapy, making art simply to make art.

Their styles both metaphorically lend to the rejection of the idea that our world is simply black and white. They lyrically, and instrumentally, and methodically insist that humans are messy, and our relationships are messy, and our art is messy.

The duo is going on tour this summer. With a last-minute, final-rehearsal-and-jam-session sort of gig, they kicked off their tour in Olympia May 22. Their first official tour stop is in Washington, D.C., and they will be back in the Pacific Northwest July 30, with a show at Neumos in Seattle.

Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock together is much more than just Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock. They are a legendary project together that attempts to make musical the experiences of grief and doubt. They cry with each other, and sometimes shout names of sandwiches at each other (track six).

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