Just in time for the new year, local alternative rock band Toy Cars released their new record “Paint Brain” on Jan. 12. With 12 songs on the album, “Paint Brain” is the most extensive project the Asbury Park-based band has released to date, with the band’s four previous records capping at four to five songs.
While the band has established its own individual sound, “Paint Brain” overall has a classic indie-rock feel, occasionally throwing in keyboards and plucked string instruments into the guitar-bass-drums mix that is traditional to indie rock. This is not to say the album is ordinary but rather a quintessential, go-to record to listen to on long drives with the windows down.
This quality is especially present during an initial listen to the song “Truth Be Told,” a song that could well be the background track to a movie scene as the main character drives a blue mustang convertible through the countryside with the roof down. What makes Toy Cars unique is that Matteo DeBenedetti, Matt Caponegro and Mike Linardi all provide vocals for the band. Their seamless vocal melodies are relaxing and serene, especially over the smooth sound of the guitar.
“Iron Me Out” has a super catchy melody, and the lead guitar has pretty solid moments where it harmonizes the vocal line adding color and depth. The song also features a prominent bassline not found on the album’s other tracks. Add in a slower bridge between the final two choruses and “Iron Me Out” makes for a sick headbanger.
“Leaving A/B” is a song that showcases a more mellow side of the album. The combination of the lead guitarist’s melodies and steady chords in the rhythm guitar is already initially alluring, and also heavily contrasts with the syncopated drums in the verses of “Cold.” “Leaving A/B” is more of a traditional rock song with a heavy snare drum and cymbal crashes on the chorus and louder, almost screaming, vocals. They're Two very different types of songs but they both work really well in context of the album.
"Paint Brain" as a whole is an excellent addition to the "local-rock-band-in-a-world-of-mainstream-pop" category. The sound is reminiscent of softer classic rock and Toy Cars plays the less-is-more game perfectly. Some artists utilize a crazy amount of electronics and extra background vocalists to pull off music that their listeners love, but again, Toy Cars sticks to the guitar-bass-drums-vocals combo.
As the band got their start right here in on the Banks, they'll be returning back to their roots Friday, Feb. 2 at Mount Moon in New Brunswick where they'll be performing songs from their new album and sharing the stage with other local bands. With four albums under their belt and a solid New Brunswick following, it's safe to say we'll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.