New Jersey lo-fi maverick follows up last year’s debut with an EP that is as tongue in cheek as it is brilliant
Authenticity is something that musicians crave. To be considered ‘authentic’ is a holy grail, next to having biggest selling albums, largest gig audiences and longest tours. Very few have ever attainted it because like unicorns, leprechauns and good house albums, few have found them and once you have they vanish forever leaving you mumbling to yourself in forests. One musician who does have it however, you’ve probably never heard of. New Jersey’s Wholewheat is the embodiment of authenticity.
Since Bob Dylan released his Basement Tapes album in 1975, a collection of songs culled from recordings he made in the basement of the house he was living with The Band, musicians have thought that adding ‘basement’ to a collection of lo-fi songs makes them cool, kooky and interesting. Most of them were actually recorded in proper studios, then made to sound lo-fi later. Wholewheat’s debut album Songs From My Parents Basement, which was actually recorded in his parent’s mold infested basement, was a highlight of 2014. Not only where the songs heart breakingly honest, but they were catchy and infectious. Now he has returned with new release the Ruf Draft EP.
Heartache and rejection peppers this EP. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Not by a long shot, as Wholewheat is a witty wordsmith, so all his lyrics have a slightly sardonic and self-deprecating vibe to them. The opening lyrics to Just a Little Bit are “Well congratulations, show them they what they won, a bottle of booze, and this loaded gun. The end of the road, is still filled with glory, and Falcao from the Never Ending Story. I’m flat broke, I loaned my conscious to the bank, Asked out this girl, before my heart sank. She’s the type of one, you see in your dreams, she works at the gap, and she folds jeans”. All this is backed by scratchy guitars and astringent lyrics. Absolutely flawless.
Luckily the rest of the EP is just as satisfying. Paid the Toll feels like a rework of The Beatles-Ticket to Ride (“She’s got a free pass, through my heart, and I already paid the toll”), but more lo-fi and with a sketchy keyboard under it. How can Lyrics like “How can this be, I think I’m happy. For the first time, in my life” be anything but life affirming? The EP closes with Does Love Come with Those Fries, let’s hope fast food restaurants never hear this song, as their might be some lawsuits!
The Ruf Draft EP inhabits a special place surrounded by Adam Green during his shambling Anti-Folk beginnings, The Flaming Lips when they proclaimed we’re all going to die in a Top 40 pop song, Robert Pollard with a flagrant disregard for recording techniques and Beck’s early work, think One Foot in the Grave and Stereopathetic Soul Manure and you’re close. While Wholewheat is singing about real feelings and emotions there is a whole level of surrealism going on too. And what could be better than that?