TOE- ‘Hear You’
Perhaps the post-rock scene is softening in its old age, the purists less vocal, or maybe, just maybe, the internet now dissipates rather than focuses group disappointment, but there has been way lass harrumphing about this record than I predicted. Toe, see, aren’t supposed to do things this way. ‘Hear You’ is the Japanese five-piece’s first album on the American Topshelf Records, it has songs with, whisper it, regular arrangements, and they use vocals too, more than they ever have before. The simple, neat structure and nursery rhyme sing-along of ‘Commit Ballad’ alone should have traditionalists twirling their moustaches with rage.
Hopefully the reason resistance has been so muted doesn’t lie in a lack of focus but quite the opposite. Sure, toe go through some big changes here but not only are the things they’ve always done best all present and correct, there is something very special in the finest details of ‘Hear You’.
‘Premonition’ and ‘A Desert Human’ are the perfect opening pair. They serve as excellent reminders of the band’s penchant for guitars that feel angular and warm at the same time, smooth, almost jazzy vibes and deceptively simple dynamics, all built around Kashikura Takashi’s pinpoint percussion. The latter track especially feels like being inside a giant clock as it whirrs into life, all slow-spinning gears and soft, ticking metal.
‘My Little Wish’ is Takashi’s starriest turn here (kudos too for that “woo!” about 2:45 in), ‘Song Silly’ a dark pop track least like the toe of old, and if ‘The World According To’ combines mathy rock with seriously danceable rhythms, later there is some straight-up instrumental hip-hop. Which sounds strange to say but it never feels like toe built this by design, only that it grew, sprung organically from their instruments. It makes perfect sense.
Deeper down and there are the most well produced handclaps of all time, alien feedback, and the sweetest swirling ear candy. Every track has a secret or ten but tracking them down is never exhausting because the songs at large are so well written and played. This is a record born to be heard through headphones. Purists might be shocked but spend some time with ‘Hear You’ and in the smallest corners, in the cracks of these tracks, in the finest details, is an incredible record.