Release Date: Jan 7, 2014
Record label: Heavenly
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Toy’s 2012 self-titled debut was all about blending the diverse guitar genres of folk, psych and post-punk. Early single ‘Left Myself Behind/Clock Chime’ recalled both New Order and Syd Barrett, a feat that few other contemporary psychedelic bands outside Deerhunter have achieved. ‘Join the Dots’ maintains Toy’s stance as masters of creativity and control, and expands it.Where it really impresses is in its long blasts of expansive weirdness.
Fast workers, TOY. Just over a year since their debut and now a second album has arrived. They’ve never really even disappeared from view during that period. No unexplained absences. No long holidays. No six month retreats to exotic climes to weave yoghurt and find themselves. Just a bunch of ….
Based on all the directions TOY took on their self-titled debut, it seemed like they'd have to choose between their Krautrock excursions, their fondness for post-punk, and their dream pop leanings in order to make something consistently satisfying. That isn't the case on Join the Dots, which finds them bridging the gaps that made their first album as unfocused as it was promising. Reunited with producer Dan Carey, the band blends the best of each approach they tried on TOY.
Just a year since their impressive debut and TOY are already returning with their second album. Sometimes there’s a perceptible dip in quality on second albums, but TOY suffer no such problems. If anything, they’re more assured and building on their already solid foundations. Opening an album with a seven-minute instrumental exploration (Conductor) is a pretty bold move (unless you happen to be in the business of writing nothing but lengthy exploratory instrumentals), but TOY seem to be comfortable with it.
If 2011 was the year of dubstep and 2012 the year when EDM decided to rear its head at every single opportunity, then what was the defining music sound of 2013? There's certainly a strong argument to be made that it's the year psych and drone rock left the coattails of Melody's Echo Chamber and Tame Impala and took off by itself. Never mind the return of My Bloody Valentine—we had critically acclaimed new material from Hookworms, MONEY, Temples, Girls Names, Crystal Stilts, and Charlie Boyer & The Voyeurs amongst other. Preceding that lot though, and in Heavenly sharing a label with them, were London five-piece TOY, who put out their debut album some 15 months ago.
London psychedelic pop band Toy's 2012 self-titled debut made a big impression, and many credit it with setting off a small psych rock revival in the UK. Their sound is an intoxicating blend of 70s Krautrock, 60s British psychedelia, NYC proto-punk, some 80s post-punk and a healthy dose of 90s shoegaze. On their follow-up, they have taken the if-it's-not-broke approach: it should satisfy fans, but it's harder to get excited about.
The London quintet installed lighting rigs in the studio when recording their debut album, to help them capture the feel of their live shows. The billowing feedback and the extended jams that bookend their second suggest a similar aspiration but it's only when hazy melodies begin to pierce the fog that their psychedelic rock strikes the right balance between hooky immediacy and cosmic ambition. A blissed-out synth riff gives direction to the dazed peregrinations of Left to Wander; languid harmonies decorate Frozen Atmosphere.
In 2010, the US duo MGMT released the follow-up to their million-selling debut album Oracular Spectacular. Congratulations was, they said, influenced not by 60s psychedelia but "80s English underground bands that were influenced by 60s psychedelic rock". There was a song about Television Personalities frontman Dan Treacy, rendered in the trebly, clattering, reverb-heavy style of their 1982 psych album Mummy Your Not Watching Me.
When Toy appeared last year, they were at the forefront of a burgeoning British psychedelic scene. Twelve months later and the list of bands that could be considered part of that movement has expanded noticeably. That's part of the problem for Toy, because not much has changed for them in that time. Their sophomore effort, Join The Dots, has very little in the way of ambition on display, as if the band is quite happy with the status quo.It starts out promisingly with "Conductor," a behemoth of an instrumental that settles into a wonderful Krautrock groove before continuing to build for its seven-minute duration.
Following relatively swiftly on the heels of their 2012 self-titled debut, Join the Dots continues to make many of the right noises that attracted critical approval from its predecessor. Why is it, then, that the overall effect doesn’t – quite – feel like it comes off in the same way? So opener “Conductor” starts out with a cosmic ripple and a psychedelic sense of wonderment that augers well for what’s to follow. The wholly instrumental track is compelling and driven by the motoric rhythms that also propel many of the other (better) tracks here.
Thousands of years B.C. an old transcript was rumored to have been unearthed, outlining the basic precepts of how to succeed in the music biz. Since time immemorial, man has searched the deepest crevices and most towering mountains for said transcript. It is said to contain ‘The New Sound’ that has been consistently lusted after by perfectly coiffed, skinny-legged ragamuffins since music became a real, recordable ‘thing’ (that is, not a hatchet being scraped against a tin-legged chair).
To say psych rock lives is no surprise to anyone who follows music that’s not on the radio or Pitchfork-approved – the genre’s been a mainstay of the underground since its inception in the ‘60s. But the ongoing, surprisingly large success of Flaming Lips and the radio hit scored by Tame Impala (atypical as “Elephant” is) means psychedelia might actually make some dough, so the big spotlight turns to other up-and-comers with a battery of effects pedals and an acidic twinkle in the eye. Enter the radio-ready Toy and its second LP Join the Dots.