Now that The Gaslight Anthem are back for good, that leaves a whole slew of bands racing for second place as far as that whole scene is concerned. That’s hardly a bad thing, though, especially considering how bands like The Menzingers and The Hotelier have channelled Americana-tinged punk and emo into something truly stellar. However, it also means that newer bands will have to severely up their game if they’re looking to make an impact.
That’s the sort of area Toy Cars fall into, a band heavily ingrained in everything that sound has to offer. Debut full-length, ‘Paint Brain’, puts forward a strong case as it leaves an effective impression. Tracks such as ‘Cobwebs’ and ‘Swim’ are able to capture the feeling of roughened beauty that this sound is so stellar at. However, throughout its 12 songs the New Jersey quartet transition across genre borders with ease. Early highlight, ‘Cold’ pulsates with an anthemic quality and lyrical earnest; a trait that is a constant throughout ‘Paint Brain’. While the haunting highlight, ‘Erie’, and its interluding partner ‘Jimmy & Quinn’, are carried with post-rock-inspired tones. It complements Toy Cars’ expanding musical palette.
Admittedly, Toy Cars come off as your standard US indie rock band. There is a comforting sense of familiarity on mid-point cuts ‘Iron Me Out’ and ‘Truth Be Told’, yet there is a spark to Matt Debenedetti’s introspective writing. The laid-back, reverb-touched ‘Leaving A/B’ beautifully captures mundanity of everyday life. Whereas closing track, ‘Sarah 1908’, stirs with haziness as Debenedetti openly states “For a whole year I’ve felt lucky, just to be alive and well”.
‘Paint Brain’ captures a young band that are slowly finding their feet. Toy Cars’execution shows promise of evolving away from the emo and punk foundation they’ve been tied too. While they might not step out of the shadow of their East Coast influences, there’s enough evidence here to show that potential.
‘Paint Brain’ by Toy Cars is out now.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)