Jet Lag is one of those albums formed from a singular vision – Josiah Wolf plays every instrument: guitar, kalimba, vibes, Hammond organ, bells, bass, drums. Whatever it took. To give it that all important biographical element, it emerged out of a turbulent period in Wolf's life. A relationship of 11 years standing had dissolved.
Josiah Wolf is in a bad way. The drummer/multi-instrumentalist for indie pop-hop, odd-jobs Why? -- and brother of head Why? guy Yoni Wolf -- penned this debut album in the evidently rocky wake of an 11-year relationship, which makes it a solo effort in more ways than one. The lone Wolf also played every note of these lonely, vibe-heavy arrangements, which aren't a far cry from the textural warmth and inventiveness of his work with Why?, but trend toward more simple, if not necessarily sparse, downcast chamber folk.
The songs on the debut full-length from WHY? drummer Josiah Wolf were inspired by the dissolution of an 11-year relationship, as well as Wolf's move back to the Midwest after years of living in California. Dropping a breakup album for your first LP seems a risky move. Listeners are just starting to get to know you, after all. But considering his last solo outing, the scrappy song-sketch collection The Josiah EP, was self-released all the way back in 2003, maybe he had to make this record at this time.
Those who have followed WHY?’s trajectory over the years — from hip-hop abstractionism to heady avant-folk — won’t be surprised by the familiar feel of Jet Lag, the solo debut of WHY? drummer Josiah Wolf. What might surprise some people, though, is how huge a role the elder Wolf has obviously played in that band’s transformation. Sole’s recent departure from Anticon opens an easy window for critics to talk about how far the label has departed from its rap roots, and Wolf’s album could be the prime example for those arguments.
“And it’s true that I stole your lighter / And it’s also true that I lost the map”, Liz Phair sang in her once-trademark monotone on the hilarious and heartbreaking “Divorce Song” from her classic debut album Exile in Guyville, “But when you said that I wasn’t worth talking to / I had to take your word on that”—tongue-in-cheek detachment as a thin armor against genuine emotional despondency. It, along with the devastating confession of “The license said you had to stick around until I was dead / But if you’re tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am” that follows later in the song, are faintly yet potently echoed in “The New Car”, the by-far strongest moment on Josiah Wolf’s own debut Jet Lag. As with Phair’s couple, Wolf’s subjects find themselves similarly stranded together in a car well after the ending of their story has already been written.