Toy

Toy

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Rarely has a band been so well named as Bergen, Norway's delightful Toy, but take note, children: the sparkling playthings heard on the group's eponymous debut offering are no mere gaudy baubles, but rather are intricately handcrafted future-retro gizmos and whiz-bang gadgets of the finest quality. Though they share a similar wistful sweetness and winsome naïveté with gentler electronic regressionists like Plone and ISAN, Toy pack a good deal more wallop into their tunes, stuffing these 44 minutes with a dizzying range of musical ideas, merry melodies, and goofy sounds. Things start out on a particularly giddy note with "Grass Beatbox"'s whirlwind of Looney Tunes-ish xylophones and "Don't Be"'s screwball vocoder fantasia, though it's not all a madcap sugar rush; the "kid in a candy store" approach occasionally settles down for more relaxed midtempo fare like "Swingswung," "Decorama," and "Golden Fish in Pool," which are considerably mellower than your average rambunctious toddler. Significantly, their poppy melodic sensibility shines just as strongly as their diverting sonics, particularly on the standout "Rabbit Pushing Mower." Throughout, the duo's arrangements balance multi-layered complexity with electro-orchestral lushness, but they never feel overly electronic -- although it certainly sounds like plenty of vintage synthesizers are involved, it's tempting to imagine their recording studio as a sort of Santa's workshop, filled with curious trinkets and cobbled-together scraps culled from rummage sales and grandparents' attics. It's not too hard to think of parallels and precursors, electronic and otherwise, for this kind of kitschy but sophisticated novelty music (Luke Vibert's work as Wagon Christ and parts of the High Llamas' Cold and Bouncy come to mind, though there are certainly more vintage referents as well, from Raymond Scott on down), but Toy have an extensive bag of tricks and a sense of delicious fun all their own, and their retro-inspired 21st century vision of Toyland is well worth exploring. Recommended for ages one to 101.

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