Album Review: Here Comes Saturn – Toby Singer

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Reviews

Toby Singer

If one were to study the evolution of popular music, one would notice that throughout every era, the music industry tends to emphasize several subgenres.  In the 70’s, Southern Rock, Disco and Stadium Rock dominated the FM waves.  The 80s saw the emergence of Hair Metal, Glam and the electronic side of poop.  By the 90s, grunge, power-punk and hip-hop glided to the forefront of the industry.  The 2000s and 2010s have already seen many subgenres come and go quite rapidly, though one of the most steadily popular and successful styles of musicianship is the light, acoustic warbling of the indie community.  However, despite the nearly uncountable number of similar indie artists, one may find themselves hard pressed to uncover a truly unique, creative or significantly talented song-crafter.  Often, indie artists tend to all drift towards a familiar song formula and style that tends to classify the indie genre as somewhat monotonous, notably exemplified by Mumford & Sons, who are unfortunately one of the most premier acts of popular music.

Michigan Born and Brooklyn native Toby Singer doesn’t stray too far from the popular indie sound, but certainly builds upon the typical formula on his newest release, Here Comes Saturn.  The record, which was released digitally via http://tobysinger.bandcamp.com on June 4 and will be released on iTunes and physically on June 18th, stands as the singer/songwriter’s solo debut after departing from other projects including the keyboard-based afro-pop outfit Go Go Ghost.  Saturn is a concise 7 track release, that emphasizes acoustic folk tunes that remain pretty consistent stylistically, but avoid becoming too repetitive.  Singer worked closely with producer Ken Rich throughout the album’s recording process to achieve a truly raw, polished and old-school feeling that could have easily been recorded live in a Chicago studio in 1964.  Here Comes Saturn plunges headfirst into deep poetry throughout the entire album, singing quietly and thoughtfully about love, fear, betrayal and self-exploration on one of the most charming releases of the year.

From the first chord, Singer makes his overall sound pretty clear.  “Carrol’s Garden” opens Here Comes Saturn with a quick blast of heavy acoustic strumming quickly joined by light piano and a catchy ascending bass line for a classic vintage sound. Singer’s gentle and almost weary vocal performance on this track and every track is beyond perfect for the emotional vibe of the record.  Singer has a strong handle on his wide range and really utilizes his voice as an additional instrument.  In certain moments, Singer’s voice cries out like a bird song and others flows heavily like a whispering rain cloud.  Vocals paired with extremely visual lyrics establish very clear moods, the songwriter proves himself a fabulous singer on top of a long list of musical feats achieved on Here Comes Saturn.

Since the record is not one of endless length, clocking in at just over thirty-one minutes, it is difficult to point out which songs stand out as the strongest.  That being said, while some tracks tread on similar musical ground, the first two singles, “Hard Beast,” and “Odysseus” as well as the synth-heavy “Bobsled” catch the ear immediately.

Though “Hard Beast” has already been discussed in The Sound Hound’s review of the track when it was first released, it is important to reiterate certain details in the context of the entire album.  On a record that emphasizes similar acoustic strum patterns from track to track, “Hard Beast” strays from the trend, lending a more riff-heavy chart-topper.

“Bobsled,” the record’s penultimate track is easily the most interesting and fleshed-out of Singer’s compositions.  However, this was not always the case.  The initial release, previously available on his Facebook page and website, was a much more stripped down version featuring nothing more than one acoustic guitar track underneath vocals.  In addition to the compelling music, Singer balances irony and comedy with a mournful tone in the lyrics, turning this into an even more interesting track that should certainly not be overlooked.

Many albums save the worst track for last in a desperate attempt to extend the album and include all compositions without drawing too much attention to weaker efforts.  However, Singer strives to close strongly with what he cites as his favorite on Here Comes Saturn.  “Odysseus,” from which the album title originates, portrays the musician almost as a traveling bard, the likes of Homer’s protagonist himself, moving from place to place, town to town, holding nothing but an acoustic guitar with which to prove his worth.  And Singer does exactly that.  He culminates his first record with a song that in a somewhat anti-nostalgic manner reflects on the inevitability of the passage of time and with it, our lives.  It is an extremely mature piece of poetry for such a young artist, a trend consistent throughout the entire record.

Every minute Here Comes Saturn touches on many deep, deep concepts. The phrase “Here Comes Saturn” links to a mystical explanation for the deaths of so many musicians at the youthful age of 27 to something called “The Saturn Return.”  Thus, the album title is more than suiting, as the lyrical content covers many aspects of life and the fear of loss. Singer rather cerebrally writes from the heart, something that many artists of his genre can rather facetiously and ignorantly claim to do also. If you are searching for a raunchy album filled with fit-pumping, shallow anthems of glory, or one filled with loud, experimental beats, that pulls from every musical genre, Here Comes Saturn is not right for you.  However, if you are interested in closing your eyes, relaxing and being taken on a more spiritual journey, then Here Comes Saturn is a chilling and honest release from start to finish that deserves a spot in your record collection.

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