Hokey Fright is the debut album from The Uncluded, a two person team of Aesop Rock (who you may know from a song featured on Nike+iPod) and Kimya Dawson (who you may remember from the Juno soundtrack). On opening the Amazon parcel the first thing I noticed was the CD case itself; a folded card case with light coloured artwork of the two musicians as old people. Inside, there is more artwork of them catching a frog, and the only booklet is a guide titled ‘How To Catch A Frog’.
Both musicians are skilled songwriters, whose lyrics are complex and personal, and both voices are easily recognisable. Working together, the words and voices stand apart and fit together in a hard-to-describe way, just as the genre itself is hard to define. The familiar elements of each artist are there, and fans of either will not be disappointed. Kimya Dawson’s fans may remember hearing him on her last album, Thunder Thighs; he features on Miami Advice, Zero or a Zillion, The Library, Walk Like Thunder and Captain Lou. Likewise, Aesop Rock’s fans may remember hearing her on his last album, Skelethon; she features on Crows 1 and Racing Stripes.
Coming to the album as a Kimya Dawson fan, it was both greatly enjoyable and familiar. In a manner typical to her, there were songs that filled me with joy and songs that made me cry, although not for obvious reasons, even to myself. To Aesop Rock fans, it is presumably just as enjoyable and similar, and manages to do what it is that makes them fans.
Starting with the strange Kryptonite and ending with the upbeat Tits Up, this album is as odd, compared with much mainstream music, as the frog-catching booklet. While this is to be expected and loved by fans, it could be offputting to new listeners to the duo. As it is a fantastic album, and as a debut it suggests that The Uncluded are fantastic, it is more than worth it for those unfamiliar with either artist to listen to a song or two to get a feel for the music, before attempting to listen to the album in full.
As well as being the kind of music that I feel everyone deserves to hear, the messages in the songs are positive; Organs reminds you to give away your ‘pieces’ when you die, and to remember that you may need somebody else’s ‘pieces’ one day. Likewise, the things Kimya Dawson tells herself in Teleprompters, “I am beautiful, I am powerful, I am strong and I am lovable.” are things that she, at the same time, is saying about you and telling you to tell yourself more.
Overall, it is worth repeating that I think Hokey Fright is an album everyone deserves to hear, in the same way your favourite food is something you think everyone deserves to eat. It’s impossible to really explain the feeling I felt getting the album in the post, or listening to it through the first time, but I imagine it’s similar to the feeling anyone gets with a new album by their favourite band or singer.