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. This time, the band worked with David Wrench, and his production and Chris Coady's mix strip away the fog of TOY's previous albums in favor of a crystalline hyperreality. In retrospect, Join the Dots highlights like "Endlessly" feel like a rehearsal for Clear Shot; though it still feels right to call their songs trips and excursions, now they're powered with a higher grade of fuel. The way that "Another Dimension" churns and hovers and "Fast Silver" moves from dusk to dawn wouldn't have been possible on TOY or Join the Dots, while "I'm Still Believing" and "We Will Disperse" reflect how nimbly the band blends its pop and experimental sides. They're just as deft at vividly combining influences that range from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to the Incredible String Band to acid house: The eerie majesty of "Cinema" calls to mind a Bernard Herrmann piece for analog synths. Occasionally, TOY gets a little too liberated from structure on Clear Shot; though psychedelic music thrives on blurred lines, songs such as "Clouds That Cover the Sun" don't have enough shape to be truly transporting. Fortunately, for every formless track, there are two more like the brilliantly buoyant "Dream Orchestrator," a glimpse of 21st century psych-pop at its finest. Moments like this make Clear Shot TOY's most ambitious and rewarding album yet.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares