‘Oozing romanticism, nostalgia and effortless sophistication, it’s an utterly indulgent listen.’
Re-intro to TOYGIRL
First coming to the attention of Listen to Discover last year with their stunning debut ‘Reign’, TOYGIRL return with a follow up which proves you can never tell what a second release will be like. Achieving simply huge listening figures by any standard, that initial track has to date amassed more than 100,000 plays and if that tells you one thing, and one thing only, it’s that the anticipation around ‘Moonlight Velvet’ (out 6th March 2020) has surely been just as big. And not give too much away, but it absolutely should be. Sure it’s fair to say that new bands take a while to find their sound – something which they freely admitted last year – but you never quite expect a follow up to be so strong, yet so different, in every single way. Of course it’s still the harmonious combination of musicians, but the sound of this heavily jazz-influenced track is in a different league. So wrap yourself in a velvetly blanket, head out on an evening stroll and let the moonlight guide you to a place that’s full of musical seduction.
Subtly making its way into our ears a combination of vinyl crackle, delicate guitar and warped echoing effects brings a sense of modern nostalgia. Instantly, you can’t help but notice the difference in sound to TOYGIRL‘s debut. Gone are the dominantly rhythmical motifs and replaced by this new atmosphere, it feels like a complete contrast. Equally, with the emergence of sultry, breathy sax lines it oozes romanticism and seduction. Like I said, a complete contrast. In someways, this could be expected given that the 5-piece told Listen to Discover last year that they were still finding their direction, but this level of development is nothing short of remarkable. Likewise, in perfectly capitalising this new-found sound the emergence of gorgeously warm, vowel-centred vocals gives us an early tease of the stunning main vocals which are about to make their appearance.
Soaring effortlessly above the gently lilting accompaniment, the overall sound is enhanced in a way that is as beautiful as the vocal itself. Delivering the line of ‘Am I not a woman?’ in the way Hannah does, it feels purposeful yet understated and completely connective. For one simple line, it gives so much. But in blending so wonderfully with the aforementioned atmosphere, it does all this while transporting us as well. With every aspect set so incredibly well, it feels like the perfect, truly indulgent jazz ballad. Like it belongs in the most sophisticated of bars. This though is only emphasised further as Hannah showcases her vocal hallmarks throughout the initial verse.
Continually soothing us in all areas – both vocally and instrumentally – the early connection brought by that opening phrase never feels like it will be lost. Sure it’s down-tempo and not in your face, but that is exactly why it works so well. The success is in the subtlety. Well that and of course Hannah’s completely flawless tone which doesn’t even falter when she slips from her chest voice and into her head. Achieving something quite rare, there is no sense of projection loss. Not one bit. Instead, it flows beautifully within the changing tones that aid the musical storytelling of the lines ‘When my love turns bittersweet’ and the melodic melisma of ‘I would fly away.’ Like the surroundings above which it sits, it’s an effortlessly gorgeous sound. Equally, the warm harmonies that emerge as we head toward the most understated of choruses make the vocal transitions as seamless as the embellishments within the accompanying electric guitar and drums. Now featuring accented injections, freedom filled cross-rhythms and delicate synth bells, it is all the guidance we require on our journey through the now subtly psychedelic, luxuriously luscious musicality.
Providing us with a brief return of the opening atmosphere ahead of the second verse, the harmonious comfort that has been segues beautifully into a sea of subtle developments. Initially hinted at through the change in lyrical direction with Hannah asking the question ‘Are you not a man?’, you get a real sense of where the rest of the track is heading. However, while development is apparent, the sense of connection with TOYGIRL’s debut is just as much. Keeping the sound stylishly contained in the earlier parts of both, the opportunity for real growth is offered and shamelessly taken. Developing in all areas, warm vocal harmonies blend with sway inducing swung drums while evolving instrumental lines dance touchingly around Hannah’s playful mix of soft inflections and power. Everything, literally everything, is wonderous. However, with us two thirds through – and whether you believe it to be possible or not – further transitions of beauty are still to come.
Encouraging us to further drift away to the edges of psychedelica, the former sax lines merge with heavenly and harmonically set vocal echoes giving us a renewed chorus. Impossible to not be completely transported, in ending the preceding verse with a gentle soar the sound suddenly blossoms generating an impassioned – and indeed increasingly passionate – atmosphere. Gaining greater dominance on every note, every aspect grows into something truly special. Swooning sax lines seduce us. Echoing husky vocals do likewise and softer in the mix than before, the free-form accents appear at just the right moments. But don’t think that TOYGIRL are done. Remember those delicate bells tones we were teased with earlier? Well they are about to be put centre stage.
Ensuring that the most exposed sound of the whole track is truly that, almost everything that has been disappears to reveal touchingly brushed drums, selectively picked guitar, wordless harmonies and those aforementioned bells. Creating an utterly indulgent and totally dreamy atmosphere, cascading tones twinkle like stars while the setting of ‘ponder if you must’ encourages us to do just that. Placing that lyric where it is, you do have to wonder if within there is a double meaning – one that encourages us reflect on the track itself. And we absolutely should. But don’t do it just yet for if you do, you will miss out of the musically step-up confirming, tantalisingly touching atmosphere that is Moonlight Velvet’s final moments.
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Listen to TOYGIRL on: Spotify
Find out more about TOYGIRL and their music at: Track Review: TOYGIRL: Reign and Behind the Music: Interview with TOYGIRL.