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Toy Balloon - ToyDivision

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(Lofly Records)

Toy Balloon’s debut album Toy Division could very well be a pop classic. Or a dance classic. Or a shoegaze/house/electronica classic. Toy Balloon’s music can only be described as pop, because listing ever genre it falls under would take up most of this review. Each song is simultaneously shoegaze, house, post punk, dance and more, with a drum machine keeping the band in check throughout. Like New Order and Beck before them, Toy Balloon have taken it upon themselves to break down genre barriers and create something you’ve never heard before. Once you think you’ve pinpointed their sound, they’ll throw something at you from left-field and you’re back to square one. This is the beauty of Toy Balloon’s sound; it’s hard to grow tired of something you aren’t even used to yet.

Toy Division is one of those rare records which manages to take a lot from its influences yet remains completely original. Those influences are very obvious; after all, the album was named after one of them. There’s even a New Order reference on Terordome Superclaps, but it’s not just a certain group of Manchester natives that inspired this album. Toy Balloon take entire genres, strip them back and reinvent them to suit their own needs, so by the time they’re finished with them you’re not quite sure where they even started. Maybe this song started as shoegaze, maybe it was a bit of hip-hop. Who knows? Either way, this song is catchy and I want to dance.

Of course, writing a catchy song is one thing, but translating that song to record is something else entirely. Luckily label mate Phil Laidlaw of aheadphonehome manages this task with ease. Manufactured beats and live instrumentation are mixed together seamlessly and it’s this level of production which sets this record apart from so many before it.

Whether Toy Balloon went into the studio with the intention of creating one of this year’s best pop albums is anyone’s guess. There are enough dance, shoegaze and post-rock influences on Toy Division to indicate otherwise. Maybe this was a happy accident, maybe Toy Balloon came across their sound while they were playing with synths and drum machines and vocal effects. Or maybe they knew exactly what they were doing when they went into that studio. Maybe Toy Division is a carefully crafted masterpiece, taking all of the aforementioned influences, dissecting them and rearranging them into a well planned attack on all the senses. However it came to be, Toy Division is a pop masterpiece so varied it may just be timeless.

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