I was in a random dude's living room in New Jersey some time this past summer when I first saw Toy Cars perform. There was probably 20 or thirty people there, standing directly in front of the band.
I had no idea what to expect. I'd never seen them, or even heard of them, before. It was a typical random rock show: A bunch of bands playing together for one night, and one night only. I figured we'd all probably forget each other's names after we left. I can never remember the names of most of the bands, or the people in them, or really anything about the night, usually. It's nothing personal. I don't expect them to remember me either.
But I didn't forget Toy Cars—as soon as they started playing it was clear that they weren't your run-of-the-mill local band. They had a ton of energy, and great songs—and, most importantly, they seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves. It was one of those sets that makes time seem to speed up and slow down at the same time.
They made that dude's living room feel like it was a stadium.
And now, with their new EP, Sleeping Patterns, out on Friday, September 16, they pull off a similar feat: The five songs are somehow simultaneously intimate and gigantic at once.
The EP starts with “Bjork,” which puts vocalist Matt DeBenedetti's half-screaming-but-still-somehow-melodic style on display, and then Matt Caponegro's guitar comes in. It fills everything out—he does ambiance perfectly. Drummer Mike Linardi and bassist Chris Beninato lock in immediately, giving Toy Cars a driving sound that is especially strong on the EP's single, “Stone.”
“Dull,” essentially a folk song, changes things up—it's just DeBenedetti singing and playing acoustic guitar. Placed right in the middle of the EP, it's the perfect break of the loud-quiet dynamic shifts of the rest of the tracks. It has a Bright Eyes feel to it, which they return to on the final track, “Albatross,” a song about growing older, about regret, about devoting yourself to the things you love even if, as DeBenedetti sings, “every thing you've ever loved is gonna bury you some day.”
Well, let's hope that day doesn't come any time soon for Toy Cars: Sleeping Patterns is the work of a mature band, and if it's any indication about their future, they've got a lot more to offer.
L.M. Alder is a writer, librarian and musician. His stories, poems, and reviews have appeared in Asimov's, Ghost Town, decomP, Corium, the EEEL, and other places. He is the co-author of A Cathedral in a Mason Jar: The Untold Story of Elvis Presley (tNY.Press, 2016). You can check out his band at TheDeafeningColors.com.