New Jersey’s Toy Cars are one of the breakthroughs I have come across so far in the new year. ‘Paint Brain’, their debut full-length, is brought to our ears as a self-released effort and reserves to this band a front row seat amongst those outfits somehow able to awake in me emotions and vibes like only certain indie/emo production from the 90s did and still does. No, it’s not necessarily the fact these four guys’ names sound like they all come from my motherland, Italy: the main thing is Matteo DeBenedetti (vocals, guitar), Matt Caponegro (guitar, vocals), Chris Beninato (bass, hair) and Mike Linardi (drums, vocals, hair) write honest tunes. Their music is soaked in emotional soundscapes that blend furious drum patterns and guitar riffs. The result is an explosion of distorted sounds with sudden changes of registers and pace, and it leaves me breathless.
The title/opening-track is a brilliant representation of what I have just described. In two minutes, Toy Cars set the tone of their full-length, a rollercoaster of emotions that establish the band as one of those hidden gems predicted to move important steps in the next future. Take the energy of ‘Cold’ as a piece of evidence, not to mention the melancholic ‘Truth Be Told’, one of the best episodes of the entire album. Lyrically dense and musically intricate, ‘Paint Brain’ runs through my veins revisiting some shy giants that made a name for themselves on the American emocore scene of late 90s.
However, it’s not all about gritty vocals and desolated landscapes. Toy Cars’ most tender side emerges in tracks like ‘Leaving A/B’ (yet drenched in melancholic atmospheres), or the majestic cut ‘Erie’, last single taken from the LP and featuring vocals from Jenna Murphy of PRIM. Emo and punk influences merge in a natural way through the 12 tracks of the record. The four-piece showcase all their energy and passion, yet they don’t renounce to some intimate moments that unfold one after another (‘Track 7’ and ‘Swim’, which draw comparisons to the likes of Pinegrove).
Straight after the already mentioned ‘Erie’, an instrumental interlude – ‘Jimmy and Quinn’ – is the necessary link to the remaining episodes of an album that ends in a triumphal way, with the tense ‘Tread’ and by far the most emotional moment of the entire journey, ‘Sarah 1908’. DeBenedetti’s vocals reach a peak you would not expect, on a track that grows slowly and summarises in just over two minutes what Toy Cars are up to.
It’s indie/emo punk rock at its finest in 2018 and these “four rambling boys” from New Jersey deliver it in a unique, unpredictable and impressive way. They do it through a variety of dynamics and that brutally honest way of telling stories that make Toy Cars’ debut album stand out in this cold January.
Self-released | 2018
Tracklist & Stream