[8 August 2014]
As seems to be de rigueur for any contemporary indie rock band, Melted Toys embrace the sonic textures and aural palette of the 1980s. Unlike many of their contemporaries, however, they succeed in creating a sound very much in keeping with their influences, so much so that their self-titled debut sounds more like a reissue of some lost Sarah Records release than one released just this year. While there are a few tells here and there that indicate otherwise, one would largely be hard-pressed to provide an accurate assessment of just when Melted Toys was released.
Opener “Bummed Out” features a churning, hypnotically repetitive figure, modulating at the chorus, which gives the feel of floating through a hazy summer afternoon. The perfect aural encapsulation of warm afternoons when the possibilities seem endless but the motivation to do much of anything is almost completely lacking, “Bummed Out” sets an appropriately lethargic tone for the remainder of the album.
Throughout, vocals are lost in a comforting sonic gauze that renders the lyrics nearly incomprehensible and, subsequently and perhaps by choice, rather inconsequential. This lack of decipherable lyrics is of little consequence, however, as the vocals themselves seem to function more as an extension of the music rather than serving any sort of purpose with regard to profound statements. In this case the vocals seem more obligatory than anything else, filling out what would otherwise be moderately compelling instrumentals.
“Horizons” features chiming guitars straight out of 1980-something and a propulsive beat that seems to begrudgingly coax the lagging vocals along at tempo with the remainder of the track. As with before, the vocals seem wholly inconsequential and simply an additional textural layer, buried in a sea of reverb and rendered fully incomprehensible. Far from distracting, this approach proves more immersive than anything, allowing the listener to concentrate fully on the sounds being created without the often burdensome distraction of tepid lyrical musings.
Only on “Blush” do Melted Toys begin to stray slightly from the established template steeped in lethargy. Here somewhat frantic mechanized drums propel the song along at a pace that could best be described as brisk by comparison; Melted Toys’ dance anthem finally stirring those long since lulled into submission by the preceding tracks’ gentleness. Here the vocals become slightly more recognizable as producing identifiable words, despite still being wholly focused on adding to the sonic textures of the song rather than drawing the focus squarely onto the words themselves.
Essentially, Melted Toys show that music like this is not meant to be studied or focused on in-depth, rather appreciated as a whole and enjoyed more for its surface value than any deeper meanings afforded. Instead, the music tends to look in on itself and its influences, finding inspiration in artists from the 1980s who, in turn, sourced much of their sound from the 1960s. This practice of pop eating itself makes for vaguely familiar listening experiences for anyone even tangentially familiar with the origins of contemporary pop music and, by proxy, enjoyable if not necessarily always fully satisfying, with or without discernible lyrical content. Ultimately, Melted Toys is gentle, harmless music, the kind in which Underwater Peoples has been quietly specializing for the past few years.