This is a collaboration that I didn’t see coming. One half of Uncluded is quirky confessional musician Kimya Dawson. Dawson’s voice is that of a 7th grade girl who is frogged up and earnest mumbling as she finally tells her 8th grade crush that she like likes him, and I mean that in the most endearing way possible. Charming, honest, and open, Dawson is not interested in being anyone but her own strange self. The other half is heady hip-hop beat maker and (I hate this phrase) “alt-rapper” Aesop Rock. Rock is known for dense and abstract word play, matched with a steady, phonetic flow. So how did these two musical opposites attract? Good old fashion mail.
It was Aesop Rock who sent a piece of fan mail to Kimya Dawson in admiration. They stayed pen pals through the recording of Hokey Fright. The album was recorded over the past year using a variety of locations and devices, from voice memo recorders to fleshed out in studios. Once produced, the two misfits call themselves The Uncluded. The name comes from a book by Michael Loggins where he defines the word Unclude as: Keeping things that you don’t appreciate out of your life.
In a way a critical review of this album seems antithetical of the entire premise of the album. The Uncluded, misfits and rejects in their own right, use this album to create an atmosphere of acceptance. As artists. They push themselves out of their respective comfort zones. Aesop Rock softens up as he harmonizes with Dawson and her acoustic guitar picking on Jambi Café. Dawson hardens up and jumps right into a dark, sparse hip-hop beats with confidence on TV on 10. The song Bats exemplifies the musical balance of the collaboration, ending in Rock’s synthesized beat and Dawson’s looping xylophone. The breakout song of the album is Delicate Cycle. Like most of the album, the duo may be different musically, but are lyrically in-tune. Rock allows room for interpretation with verses involving childhood toys. Dawson’s verses read simply easily, recalling the childhood community of her dad’s neighborhood laundry mat. They come together in the chorus of, “My whole life is a delicate cycle.”
Bottom line, Hokey Fright is a great album, by two great artists who came together to make something that they were not totally sure of. Here is where music replicates life. They don’t seek to answer any questions. Answers are not what this album is about. This album says that it’s okay to have problems, and that it’s okay to try to work them out. Don’t be ashamed of anything. Embrace the weird. Push your boundaries. It says lets do it together, let’s live life together, and have some fun along the way. Photo by Carli Davidson Pet Photography