TOY formed in Brighton in 2010: The unification of school friends and former Joe Lean & the Jing Jmag Jong band members, singer/guitarist Tom Dougall; guitarist Dominic O’Dair and bassist Maxim ‘Panda’ Barron – along with drummer Charlie Savage. Emanating from a city where recent titans Royal Blood hail: That punk/rock spirit seems to be in the (sea) air. The band played festivals throughout 2010-’11 and began on modest foundations – getting their debut single Left Myself Behind in the columns of some rather high-profile music reviewers was a mean feat. Their debut album, TOY, coincided with an NME-approved inclusion into the ‘100 New Bands You Have to Hear’ list – their album gained positive reviews and provided TOY a springboard and impetus.
After supporting The Vaccines in May 2013 – part of their U.K. tour – second album Join the Dots dropped in October 2013 – the assured blend of shoegaze and psychedelic rock was fresh, experimental and highly appetising. Entrusted by critics and a solid fanbase cemented: Clear Shot arrives in October and is, in many people’s opinion, their finest and most compositionally complex work yet. Previous single Fast Silver played mid-tempo trippiness against solid keyboard lines and hazy mood – grunge-inspired motifs and a perfect balance of loose and professional.
I’m Still Believing arrives and begins with an early-Nirvana kick and driving guitar line. Not aggressive or too flighty: It is a tough and cheery presentation that gets the feet engaged soon.”If I’m leaving/I’m still believing/It’s always been my way” sings Dougall – his typically assured drawl and laconic authority gets the lyrics right into your hippocampus. A girl who is doing so much better (“now she’s not with you”); there is a certain schadenfreude – perhaps a first-person narrative where the hero turns the lens on himself?
Introspective or gleefully accusatory: A song that has that obliqueness and potential for deeper thought. Sounds of ‘60s-’70s psychedelia give the song vintage edges and evocativeness – all delivered with a slick and polished production; tight and kinetic performances. Wise insights and facts of life – “When you’ve got nothing/You’ve got nothing to show” the Dylan-paraphrasing goes – come to play – the hero feels unreal and cast under a spell. The new romance and opportunity is provided perfect aural emotion with lush strings and tight percussion – weaving a tapestry of romance, punch, and haziness into a heady cocktail.
I’m Still Believing is another convincing, progressive and assured step from a band that deserves a lot more attention. If the adored and seduced vocals do not win you then the TOY boys’ genre-and-decade-blend will certainly appeal – constantly pressing their sound and ensuring they do not repeat themselves. I’m Still Believing has an honest heart and is thankful at its core: The hero getting the girl and his life all the better for it. That optimistic and un-jaded theme might put off some – those who prefer their music instilled with world cynicism and sorrow – but for everyone else: It is another solid and intriguing single from TOY . Clear Shot seems like, on this evidence, it will be another consistent and wonderful album.