After putting out an EP a year for the past four years, Toy Cars are finally ready to release their debut full-length. Paint Brain, which more than doubles the band’s catalog, is the clear culmination of where they’ve been headed since the Red HandsEP. If you haven’t been paying attention, allow me to explain exactly where it is they’ve been headed. Paint Brain occupies the space between rock and roll bands like The Menzingers (yeah, I know) and The Gaslight Anthem, and overlaps with emo acts like The Hotelier or Oso Oso. It feels equally fresh and familiar.
There are times when they lean more towards one side (the Americana-flavored “Leaving A/B” and “Erie” for one, the heavier “Tread” and title track for the other), but in general, the band finds a sweet spot in the mix. “Cold,” for example, which is the best song in the band’s discography, begins as a standard pop-punk track before building into a driving chorus reminiscent of the best on American Slang. The band is from Asbury Park, NJ, and it shows. Toy Cars stand out in an oversaturated scene by doing something genuinely interesting.
A January release might not have been optimal for a record like this; it begs to be screamed along to driving down Cookman and Ocean Avenues in the summer. But I don’t think Paint Brain is the kind of album that’ll get forgotten as the year goes on. I think it’ll be the kind that sticks with you over the year, playing in the background as you make the memories that’ll define the time for you. And what a soundtrack it will be.