Album Review: Toebow – Themes

Despite a healthy dose of weirdness, Brooklyn psych-pop quintet Toebow‘s forthcoming record is surprisingly accessible. Titled Themes, the album is out Friday, May 24 on Imaginator Records and follows Toebow’s 2018 EP, Spirit Mane. Its eight tracks shine with catchy melodies, fun music and vivid lyrics, yet the band is lighthearted and relaxed – and all of this makes for a stunningly unique psych-pop record.

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Album art by Willyum Rowe. 

Toebow does not take itself too seriously, as evidenced by its elements of weirdness thrown into each track – a hissing noise in “Toebow Theme,” or yelping vocal interjections in the background of “Key Song,” or a droning thread of synth that weaves throughout “Golden Hamburger,” for example – but those bizarre tidbits are precisely what keep the record engaging. Plenty of bands write groovy tracks, and plenty of singers have voices that are dark and bold like smooth black coffee,  but maintaining an accessible sound with this many eccentricities is not as easy.

Thus, the limiting factor to this album is not its weirdness but its length; though only eight songs, only two clock in under four minutes. For the most part, this is not an issue, but a few tracks seem to lose focus: “Return of Toebow,” for example, is the last song and an instrumental that runs just under five and a half minutes long, and though its twittering synth runs are quite fun, its length makes it difficult to follow.

That is not to say that listening to the album in full is impossible. In fact, Themes functions well when experienced as an entire record, and each song is also enjoyable in its own way. The music is quirky and fun, with bouncy bass lines and unexpected melodies, but image-heavy lyrics don’t lose sight of reality (“You burnt bread in the morning/And the smoke seeps into you” on “Burnt Bread”). The first and last songs, too, are both instrumentals and bring the record full circle with their similarities.

“Something Optimistic” is a standout on the record. It’s sunny and sweet with twangy, electric guitar picking in front of hand-clapping percussion, and the primary vocals are a light vocalization, several voices singing, “Ahh,” in unison. Most importantly, though, the music is intricate yet mellow, maintaining the lighthearted mood of the rest of the record.

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Photo by Dave Herr. 

Though at times too long, the eight tracks on Themes showcase Toebow’s unique sound well; the record is a neat blend of fun and reality, with a few sound effects and samples thrown in. It’s a perfect album to wash away the monotony of the incoming summer heat, so preorder Themes below before its May 24 release.


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