Join the Dots

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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares

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. They give their pop songs some of the drive of their ambitious instrumentals on songs like the former single "Endlessly" and "You Won't Be the Same," which nods to '60s and '80s psych pop with its jangly guitars and hazy keyboards. Meanwhile, they lend some of the melodic beauty of their three-minute singles to their more expansive songs like the soaring title track, which harnesses all of TOY's scattered energy with jet-propelled power. Balancing these extremes could have resulted in a bland mishmash, but it works remarkably well on Join the Dots. It helps that the bandmembers know how to pace themselves better than they did on their debut, whether on the rangy opening track "Conductor" or "Too Far Gone to Know," which builds from a stately start until it culminates in keyboards that suggest streaking past stars. The emphasis on TOY's prettier side on songs like "Left to Wander" and "Frozen Atmosphere" means that there's less of the hard-edged attitude that fueled some of their first album's highlights. Then again, there's less need for it when TOY can deliver songs as mighty as "Fall Out of Love," which incorporates everything they do well: tough verses, vulnerable choruses, and a triumphant, seemingly endless climax. Join the Dots shows that instead of limiting themselves, TOY have just gotten better overall -- arguably the more difficult, and rewarding, path for a band to take.

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