The Best Songs Of 2015: toyGuitar, “Sliver Of Sun”
Posted on December 4, 2015
December 4, 2015 | by Bryne Yancey
If you’ll bear with me for a moment, I’m going to talk about the weather.
For most of my life I lived in Florida, a state that essentially has two seasons: There’s the hot, rainy season, which generally occurs between May and September and is punctuated by temperatures routinely in the 80s and 90s. It rains, without fail, almost every day that time of year, usually in the afternoon, and not for very long, maybe 20 minutes or so. After the rain stops and the sun reappears, it very quickly warms the wet ground and the air becomes so syrupy and muggy it’d likely choke a weaker individual. It’s an impossible feeling to faithfully describe; you just have to be there. It’s what I imagine walking through a hot bowl of viscous soup would be like. Then there’s the dry season, from October to April, which is largely more temperate. As far as I can tell, and I’ll admit I’m biased, there’s no place on Earth with better weather this time of year than Florida. It’s pleasantly warm, but not hot. The humidity is there, but it’s more of a gentle reminder that there’s a reformed, settled swamp under your feet than an aggressive blow to your senses. It rarely rains, hell, there’s rarely even clouds in the sky. Just bright and blue and crisp as far as the eye can see. It gets fairly cold on occasion, but the cold snaps never last for more than a few days, if that. We had 85 degree Christmases more often than not when I was a kid. You see the snow and ice on TV as you’re opening presents in your living room and the window unit air conditioner is whirring in the background and you think, while briefly redirecting your eyes just above the TV and out the window where birds are chirping and palm trees are gently whispering, why would anyone ever choose to live in that stuff?
But then, moving to a place with four distinct seasons like Philadelphia, I’ve come to appreciate all they have to offer. I don’t particularly enjoy what happens to my skin, especially my hands, this time of year, but the novelty of the cold, the snow, hasn’t worn off yet. Ice can be treacherous, but trudging to the bar, or wherever, in a warm pair of boots to drink a heavy, dark beer is fun. It feels earned, you know? I love how silent the city becomes while it’s snowing, the flakes muffling every car horn and bus stop and yelling pedestrian. You can just sit there and listen and not hear anything and your mind feels pleasingly empty, oddly at ease. By the time summer’s wrapping up here, most of us are ready for it to not be so hot every day, but then come March, we’ll be dying to put our box of sweaters back into the basement until the end of the year. Every season comes with great, yet conflicting feelings. We complain about the heat, and then it gets cold. We complain about the cold, and then it gets hot again, eventually.
I’m not longing for July just yet, but still, it’s nice to listen to sunny music this time of year. California, like Florida, has a reputation as a sunny state, and as such, many of its bands produce climate-informed, warming music. toyGuitar’s 2015 debut In This Mess came, like a sunny day in the dead of winter, like a pleasantly unexpected surprise, though, given that the band is fronted by Jack Dalrymple, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised that it’s so great. I suppose the surprise comes from the depth and dexterity of the songs, particularly through such an outwardly lackadaisical lens. Californian bands, for some reason, or just bands who generally carry this specific aesthetic, often and unfairly garner genre descriptions in the form of backhanded compliments. Slacker pop. Weed rock. But goddamn, those hooks. Dalrymple’s always brought a soulful hookiness to any project he inhabits, but toyGuitar feels more like his true calling as a musician than any of them. The song structures, the guitar tones that beautifully navigate between classic power-pop and surf rock, Dalrymple’s nuanced, assured voice. Most of the songs on In This Mess have some degree of one, maybe two of these things, but “Sliver of Sun” in particular has all of them. Listen to the way Dalrymple’s voice dances around those driving riffs and upbeat percussion, as well as the backup vocals in the chorus. Then that unmistakable surf guitar pops in, briefly, adding a quick jolt of energy. So fun. This record came out in January and added such a warming presence to an otherwise bitterly cold season. I’m counting on it to do the same right now and, well, so far so good.