Toys in The Well: Now, OK
Toys in The Well

Múm, Sigur Ros, and Efterklang are the influences cited by Toys in the Well for Now, OK, and the detail's as handy a starting point as any for considering the merits of the twenty-three-minute EP. Certainly Toys in the Well—formed in 2009 in Odessa, Ukraine and now operating out of Uppsala, Sweden, and Riga—shares with those better-known outfits certain qualities, among them a concern for delicate songcraft and instrumental colour. Five years on from its Letters To Ourselves When We Grow Up album, the group returns with four electroacoustic settings whose sinuous melodies whisper their way into one's thoughts.

In material written by Jachin Pousson and Joel Gabrielsson, the group weaves a rich pop fabric from guitars, synthesizers, piano, glockenspiel, and drums, though it's a hushed vocal sound that is Toys in the Well's most distinguishing sonic characteristic. Credit for that goes to Joel, who sings throughout, and Sofia Gabrielsson, who appears on two songs. “Way Inside” inaugurates the EP on a luscious, heavily atmospheric note with a captivating lead melody whose appeal is amplified when it's alternately tinkled by glockenspiel and sung . A hint of post-rock seeps into “Wind Chases” in the rhythmic insistence that drums contribute to the otherwise free-floating, synth-drenched reverie. At seven minutes, “Most Grow” is both the EP's longest song and its most ambitious in terms of arrangement and epic reach. Each song is a meticulously crafted scene-painting that douses the vocals with resplendent instrumental detail, whether it be the soft glimmer of a synthesizer or a piano or guitar texture. Lyrically, the group focuses on life issues—weathering personal storms, grappling with decisions large and small, growing up, and so on—but does so in a way that thankfully doesn't translate into music that's downtrodden or bleak.

August-September 2014