Floating right beneath the surface, just skimming conscious thought lies Melted Toys’ self-titled debut LP. Released earlier this summer via Underwater Peoples, Melted Toys is a record composed of submerged moods never fully articulated and that, perhaps, can’t be translated in meaning through decipherable lyrics or a clean, crisp sound, but that nevertheless speaks volumes about shyness to the listener.
Bay Area’s Melted Toys, comprised of Steven Harkins (guitar, vocals), Daniel Rosado (guitar), and Brian Wakefield (bass), is a band that takes the finer qualities of dream pop together with jangle drone for an exquisite take on their debut record. A record that had to be, more or less, begun anew when Harkins had his computer and hard drive stolen, it’s also one shaped, in large part, by a personal trip the lead vocalist took with his girlfriend. Nearly half of the songs began in foreign land with Harkins’s daydreaming bone tickled pink on the sight-seeing trip. That led him to create songs that would eventually find their way onto Melted Toys.
Within the first few seconds of “Bummed Out”, the landscape of the daydreamer makes itself felt. A blissed-out Harkins sighs and breathes with passive emotion manipulated to a cryptic degree. You don’t know what he’s saying, but you feel like you know what he means. There’s a certain quality of shyness in the fact that you can’t make out what the words are, and it almost doesn’t matter when the smooth layering of guitar and synth on top of each together pair so well with the blurrily -delivered lyrics.
In “Bummed Out”, like “A Postcard” and “Press a Habitat”, meaning is drowned in sound and hidden below. There’s an element of mystery that Melted Toys captures in these songs, and it’s an unspoken mystery that is, at its core, introspective without a thought. Doused in ether, “A Postcard” echoes in and out, the air of being alone savoured sweetly with superiority. The easy-going guitar on “Press a Habitat”, perhaps because it is so inoffensive to the ear, comes off even sadder, like a depressed person trying to fake cheer on his face. It’s a relaxing instrumental that, at the same time, carries a lot of pensive brooding for weight.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t any light tracks that evoke an uncomplicated mood. “Horizons” and “Blush” are jaunty, uplifting tracks that aren’t pulled down with Eeyore sensitivity but speed along, exhibiting flashes of unadorned abandonment.
It’s telling, however, that even a song called “Joy Fit” (inspired by an experience Harkins had in Taiwan where everything felt like it was right in its place), conveys a type of joy that takes itself very seriously. The sonic pressure of disquiet lessens as the record goes on such as with “Water Arches” and its pleasantly-plucked guitar, but it’s ephemeral. Towards the second-half of Melted Toys, the deluge of feelings fades away, leaving behind a less than compelling atmosphere.
Melted Toys’ debut effort is a record that speaks to the introvert in all of us.