Wednesday, June 27, 2012

[Review] Toe - The Future Is Now EP [2012]

[I wrote this at the bus stop, so sorry if I ramble]

Four bucks, four songs. An easy transaction, like an Internet drug deal. Itunes, amazon, pick your poison. Toe's newest ep is as accessible as their first ep was inaccessible, the difference of a decade changing more than just their sound. Maybe it's some sort of consolation prize that they released their first ep on all those new-fangled stores at the same time. What can be said for sure is that ten years later Toe is calmer, but they still have that spark that makes them one of a kind.

Let's talk history. I think I loved Toe before I'd even heard them. They were just a mention on the catune website when I emailed them about a show they had scheduled in kyoto that fall. Had I heard a sample off their debut ep? Maybe. Still, I was curious and subsequently disappointed when they told me the show was canceled. I was only in Japan for four months and the only show that would come close to me had slipped through my fingers. Still, I hunted down their ep and found it, probably in a Tower Records or HMV. The sharply designed yet nostalgic art set the stage for the best instrumental CD I would hear for the next ten years. Everything about it was a calling, a major raising of the bar that would stand the test of time. Was I hooked? Holy shit yes.

I kept listening through a compilation, album, and another ep, but they lost me on For Long Tomorrow. Something about it just seemed lost in between two worlds. There was Toe-the-former, purveyor of mad instrumental skills and drumming that dropped my jaw (literally. When I saw those videos from their RGBDVD and watched that drummer's hands move, my mouth hung open for about 2.3 minutes). Then there was Toe-the-middle (which only exists because there is a different Toe-the-present now), who seemed unsure about how to proceed now that they'd hit indie darling status. They seemed more focused on doing vocal cameos than crafting sharp, other-worldly instrumental tunes. So I tuned out and forgot about Toe, thinking they were done.

Well, four bucks is a damn fine selling point, like I said. When I see something I'm curious about and the price is right, my impulsive side always gets the better of me. So, seconds later, my bank account four dollars lighter, I started listening to the new Toe ep.

There's this perception in my mind of what Toe should be. I demand certain things from my Toe and get pissed when those aren't fulfilled. I want absolutely perfect production. It may seem shallow, but I want my shit sparklingly clear. Second, I need some guitar riffs that are so sharp I can cut my teeth on them. And they need to be something that I could never realistically expect to play myself. Yes, I want guitar work that is so good it's unrealistic. Third, the drumming doesn't have to be insane, but it also has to be perfect. I don't need to describe perfect anymore. In some ways, if you really notice the drums, then they aren't perfect. I'm not saying that they should disappear in the background, but with perfect drums, everything should become one big gooey glob of perfection. Finally, and this is true with every instrumental band, the songs should speak to me, without words. That means the song needs direction and purpose. I don't just listen to your music because I've got nothing better to do. I could always just go and listen to that new Big Freedia collection. Instead, Toe puts direction in these songs and paints these moods with each song. 4 songs, 4 distinct moods in each. And, as I'm sure you gathered, they also deliver on all my other pre-requisites with this new EP.

So, the future is now, apparently. Is this what we can expect from Toe moving forward? Certainly, although I wonder if this will feel as good when it's a full album. Four songs is the perfect space to explore themes and paint a picture of exactly what your band is capable of. 10 years later, Toe is proving they are still the masters of the instrumental rock medium, and all others should cower at the example they've set.

Pick the new Toe EP up at iTunes or Amazon. If you want a physical copy you can easily get them overseas from CDJapan or YesAsia, although it will cost you quite a bit more than 4 bucks then, and that makes my review irrelevant (:-().

1 comment:

  1. Great review ryan.
    I still remember the first time you gave me "songs, ideas I forgot." i couldn't believe the drums and intricate/exciting notes i heard coming from this band. it was other worldly.
    i have to this day yet to hear a band come close to that e.p.
    they are a band that has stood out to me over the years. i havent heard the new e.p. yet but i'm already sure i will love it, especially if it is anything like their first release.