Music » Record Review

Wesley Wolfe's Cynics Need Love Too

(Odessa Records)

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There's nothing very complicated about "Restless Sleeper," the seventh song on Cynics Need Love Too, the second album in as many years by Carrboro songwriter Wesley Wolfe. For more than three minutes, Wolfe alternates between two interconnected refrains about his shortcomings as a lover. "I have news that's gonna let you down" he sings, his deadpan buoyed by a bouncing drumbeat and whimsical electronics. "But it'll be OK." Though this mantra forms half of the song, it's technically the pre-chorus, meaning it's structurally what introduces the song's actual chorus and, as it turns out, its admission: "I'm not as good as you think I am/ I am nowhere close to that," he sings in front of a toy piano and chugging bass, sounding almost gleeful to tell the truth.

Wolfe writes songs about getting better at being human, and he mostly populates them with all the worst sides of himself. During "Tear Me Down," he's a self-aware quitter without gumption and conviction; for "Mine to Design," he plays the part of a self-reliant misanthrope, convinced that we're not capable of depending on each other to bolster our own obvious faults. The blustery but ashamed "Someone Somewhere" centers around the realization that most of his problems are those of the first-world variety, that he, the privileged artist, can't imagine the difficulties that the dead, the poor and the dejected face. It's a young punk's credo resurfaced with a sense of refined pop. "Stranded With You" not only frowns at a similar selfishness but casts a crooked eye on dreams and how they can leave us holding nothing more than their memory and self-pity.

For the final minute, though, Wolfe allows one of the album's few indulgences—an unrestrained, howling guitar solo that feels like catharsis, as though he's realized at once that all this dour contemplation is what, as he writes during "Restless Sleeper," becomes the "dead weight that holds you back." And that seems to be the redeeming lesson at the center of Wolfe's remarkably cohesive catalog: In two years, he's grown from a songwriter who doubted he was any good to a self-sufficient writer, singer, arranger, producer and manufacturer who, most important, has proven that even the worst impulses can be broadcast and beaten.

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