For his new album, Cynics Need Love Too, Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s Wesley Wolfe has turned to DIY in a way few are, even in these insta-band internet days. Wolfe recorded every note on the record himself and, all the more surprising, Wolfe will hand-cut each vinyl copy of the record on his own lathe. He is, quite literally, doing it all himself. So what does this have to do with the music?
Quite a bit, actually. As the title implies, this is a record of dour, often darkly funny songs, but unlike its predecessor, it doesn’t couch them in sunny bursts of power-pop. By recording all the parts himself, Wolfe drives home the isolation of these distinctly overcast songs. The cool keys and faint guitars on “Stranded with You” chill his voice when he half-whispers, “When they come to tear us away, we’ll be the ones that stay.” It’s an illusion, a dream, but the sound lets us know it’s as torturous as it is comforting.
Elsewhere, “Tear Me Down” expands with ringing guitars and Wolfe’s strained vocals, while “Paused in Time” is lean with basic percussion and acoustic riffs. Wolfe can turn from bittersweet observations (“Everywhere I go, I look for your car”) to biting humor (“You left me like a kidney stone”) without skipping a beat. He’s heartfelt without being saccharin, and clever without being arch. Cynics Need Love Too is both a perfect send-up of and heartfelt entry into the school of maudlin power-pop. He turns to darker tones here, but he refuses to navel-gaze or lose his near pitch-perfect ear for hooks. I guess it’s easier to make music all by yourself when, well, you’re this damn good at doing it.