A. Wolf And Her Claws: “A. Wolf And Her Claws” Review
Few local artists have changed as dramatically over the course of a few years as local singer/songwriter Aby Wolf. In the space of the time between her 2009 debut Sweet Prudence and her self-titled follow up, A. Wolf and Her Claws, Wolf has undergone both a name change and a band recruitment (adding vibraphonist Joey Van Phillips, keyboardist/vocalist Linnea Mohn, and synthesist/programmer Jesse Whitney). She has also transitioned from a homespun folktronic artist to a fully-fledged practitioner of electronic pop. Even Wolf’s look has changed – seeing her now with an ultra-modern haircut and prominent tattoos it’s hard to even recall the acoustic-toting rural Illinois gal of just a few years back.
Still, while much has changed about Wolf’s look and sound certain things do remain constant. On her new record the singer’s pipes are as pristine as ever. While she doesn’t spend much time looping and mixing her vocal tracks (which for a while looked like the direction she was headed) Wolf leads each tune with the limitless confidence of someone with a flawless singing voice. On vox Wolf is also ably backed by the talented Linnea Mohn, a scene veteran who also currently sings in Rogue Valley.
Lyrically speaking Wolf is still an intimately personal songwriter. When she details the everyday struggles of life, she casts herself as protagonist and inflects each song with uplifting and empowering themes. Whether she’s wrestling with her own metaphorical artistic demons or moving on from a failed romance, Wolf’s words are like a mantra for anti-defeatism. Even in her most fragile moments, which here seems to be lovely piano-inflected tune “Disassembled,” Wolf sounds far more interested in growing and learning than she is in feeling sorry for herself.
A. Wolf and Her Claws contains a full, pop-oriented sound that skews electronic but also incorporates slight elements of dub/reggae and hip hop. While Wolf doesn’t rap per se, she does occasionally take on vocal cadences that aren’t too far off of the fact. Occasionally one can’t help but hear some similarities to local rapper Dessa, who Wolf frequently performs with and who has in fact, made a recent vocal transition of her own (in her case from hip hop to R&B). The dub/reggae footprint is pretty small, but on tracks like “Zero to 60” and “All This Time” the synths definitely take on a flavor that is distinctly Caribbean. And while those particular tunes lend the album a poppy, dance feel – the tone is balanced out overall by the addition of a healthy dose of slower, heavier songs.
— Jon Behm
The album release show for A. Wolf And Her Claws will take place at the Cedar Cultural Center on 4/21. The band will also be performing an in-store show at the Eletric Fetus this evening (4/17).