Silk Road is the second full length album and first studio venture for Oakland, CA based quartet Toner. Their sound has definitely hit its stride with this latest offering. Shades of glowing jangle are interspersed inside a wall distorted noise, with vocals carrying a laid-back, slacker vibe on the low end. The album follows bedroom pop and punk aesthetics, consisting of 10 songs in barely over 20 minutes. Each track’s ideas end before they are given any time to simmer, leaving you wistfully reaching out for more.
The first three tracks are what you would expect from the genre. “‘95 Slow” starts off sounding like a power pop anthem that’s doused in a thick dose of distortion while “Smoov” has tiny bits of jangle and tambourine making its way through a haze of heavy guitars. “Heaven’s Blade” is aggressive and sharp, closer to punk than anything in this album while still keeping the slacker vibe with the languid vocals.
Toner slowly shifts gears in the next tracks, and things get a bit more interesting. “Dark Ecstasy” is a standout in this whole collection, it goes into a more gloomier post-punk feeling. All of the warmth from the previous songs disappear in a thick distorted fog. “B.C. Hope” is the only time the tempo slows down. It starts in a more brooding cadence, before erupting into a cacophony of noise that ends as soon as you notice it.
“Old Heads” livens up the energy. It sings about how: “Every day is all the same / I’d rather be alone in my room”, an apt depiction of life under quarantine. “Cherry Plaza” is another hook-filled tune, which could easily pass as pop music except for the concrete walls of noise surrounding each corner.
“Always on Time” carries influences from alt-rock. Acoustic guitars are prominent in this one, it sounds like an Oasis tune with the volume ramped up and the vocals detuned. The album ends with “Heavy Glow”, which summarizes the other tracks that came before and wraps it in a bow. Glowing jangle and catchy lines are drowned in a dark cloud of noisy mist.
Silk Road will make you feel warm and fuzzy, and will keep your ears ringing and your head constantly bobbing. It’s a little bit on the short end and I would have loved to hear more. Still, it proves that Toner has evolved from its bedroom pop roots and is now solidified as a full-fledged band that’s making their own mark in the indie scene.
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