Release Date: Oct 28, 2016
Record label: Heavenly
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
When it comes to creativity, structure can be a frame or a cage. For TOY, the Motorik rhythms that gave form to their reveries and a foundation for their experiments were in danger of becoming dead ends. On Clear Shot, the ways in which the band branches out aren't just refreshing, they feel necessary. Not only is this TOY's first album with keyboardist Max Oscarnold (also of Proper Ornaments), it's their first without producer Dan Carey, who seemed like an honorary bandmember after their work together on TOY and Join the Dots as well as Sexwitch, their collaboration with Bat for Lashes' Natasha Khan.
Toy’s 2012 eponymous debut and 2014 follow-up, Join the Dots, found them thrillingly aligning the motorik tug of krautrock to post-punk and psychedelia. Here, the primary sources are late-1960s lysergic pop and the swoonsome, shoegazing melodies of Chapterhouse and Ride, as the Brighton quartet subtly reinvent themselves as an era-straddling psychedelic pop group. Some of these songs could be headed for an indie disco while smothered in patchouli oil, but a growing awareness of songwriting and sonic possibilities means they transcend the merely retro.
Sometimes you have to make the album that comes to you, not the one you thought you were making. TOY felt like producing an electronic record when they started committing Clear Shot to tape; what they ended up with is a freaky pop record that ditched the Krautrock leanings of previous offerings to the profit of more enigmatic influences. And while they cite Disney and the Manson family when discussing inspirations, TOY are far less creepy than they think we think they are.
On their third album overall and first since 2013's Join the Dots, which got them more notoriety in the U.S. than their 2012 eponymous debut album did, the British band TOY don't change around the formula that they've worked hard to cultivate since their formation in 2010. This is despite the 2015 departure of keyboardist Alejandra Diez in favor of Proper Ornaments guitarist Max Oscarnold.
As one of the first UK bands to fully embrace the recent psych rock resurgence, Toy have never been ones to rest on their laurels. Constantly evolving and developing their sound, they've moved into previously unchartered territories with every subsequent release since the seven-and-a-half minutes opus that was debut single 'Left Myself Behind' launched them at the tail end of 2011. While the band's self-titled first LP effectively sequenced their live set of the time into one neatly packaged compendium, its 2013 follow-up Join The Dots demonstrated their ability to push themselves to the limit and explore other territories beyond the confines of any one specific genre.
There’s currently a ridiculously exciting scene in Brighton; from the grunge hooks of literal buzz-band Black Honey to the creative hub of the Echochamp house, shared by The Magic Gang and Abattoir Blues. TOY and their blend of krautrock and psychedelia came long before this, with their self-titled LP released back in 2012. Their second release came pretty speedily after the next year and brought with it a few tweaks to their already masterful sound; slightly longer tracks, a little less of a tendency for pop hooks and a more expansive atmosphere.
Coming up with interesting ideas has never been Toy’s problem; corralling them into something consistently enjoyable is another matter. Their 2013 breakthrough, Join the Dots, was a dense, ambitious and occasionally excellent record, but could have gone easier on the extended jams. Its follow-up is equally intriguing (influences include Ennio Morricone film scores and psychedelic folk), but also feels heavy-going in places.
Brighton-formed TOY have amassed a strong cult following since their 2012 eponymous debut. Whilst claims in some quarters of being the best alternative rock band in the country might seem optimistic, their excellent second album Join The Dots in 2013 saw glimpses of how they could achieve such stature in the future. A collaboration exploring world psych with Natasha Khan from Bat For Lashes last year under the Sexwitch moniker added further weight to their portfolio and, let’s say, ambitions of becoming the best.
Individual emotional reactions to music are difficult to trace or predict. We filter music through the lenses of our own experiences and dispositions, and we construct personal, idiosyncratic meanings for any given work of art. Despite the uncertainty this lends to interpretation, popular music relies on the assumption that there are some consistent and even predictable ways that humans in a certain cultural context react to musical motifs.
Tight and tuneful, Toy trips through the earth on a wagon of hooks, rather than spacing out for acid’s sake. Clear Shot, the Brighton, UK band’s third LP, brims with catchy melodies and straightforward performances – only the richly layered production really betrays any overt psychedelic influence. Which is fine – with songs this sharp there’s no need for acid rock obscurity.
Brighton, England’s TOY are a band that could be easily obsessed over. Their music is constructed like a luminous quilt of rock sub-genres: Krautrock, psychedelia, indie pop, post-punk, shoegaze, garage, prog. These skilful music nerds have both the knowledge and chops to knit all of those influences together with meticulous precision. Proteges of the Horrors, TOY got off to a roaring start, releasing their self-titled first album in 2012 and follow-up Join The Dots in 2013, before taking a break to record an album last year as Sexwitch with Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes).
Despite the woeful spirit that surrounds most of our staff at the moment, which goes without saying, the past month was actually one of the most enjoyable in terms of music releases for Carl and I. But both of us were not going to back out of our duty to report on some albums that are really worth ….
When a relatively new band goes quiet after an initial flurry of activity, to then announce a producer and line up change, it’s perfectly acceptable for alarm bells to ring. Since TOY’s excellent second LP Join The Dots back in 2013, they've lost Korg synth mistress Alejandra Diez, an absolutely key component of their sound. In addition, the expert wooshy noises of production wiz Dan Carey, whose bag of tricks is so well suited to the band, has been replaced behind the boards by David Wrench.