Recently the mainstream of independent pop and rock has introduced certain safe yet conspicuously weird tics into their already carefully tweaked lexicon of self-conscious poses. Given that pseudo-psychedelic, fake lo-fi pop geared to fashionable teens is at an all-time high, it’s refreshing to hear some genuinely skewed yet playful music being created.
Toronto’s Toddler Body doesn’t prance about, clad in garish irony-laden -isms. While the sound world they construct draws superficially on some of the same ideas—cheap keyboards and drum machines, bleary-eyed production values, and a certain nostalgia for ’80s pop—they allow themselves freedom to meander, loosening structures, visiting darker corners of the landscape, and choosing atmosphere over replication of familiar song structures.
As a result, noxious synth vapours waft up and pollute what would otherwise be a nice little pop ditty. Peculiar sound effects clutter up the sound field. Cavernous ersatz reverbs smother warped vocals and instruments. You get the impression that while the fetid carcass of something catchy and fun remains, it’s been poisoned by weird chemicals and picked over by maggots.
It’s almost what you’d expect from musically precocious children making a “scary tape” in the basement. You can hear the light-headedness of earlier Ariel Pink, the glowing synthscapes of some of Todd Rundgren’s output, the toxic pungency of ’70s Residents and Throbbing Gristle circa 20 Jazz Funk Greats, occasional bouts of New-Jack funky-smoothness, and the scrambled-brains urgency of Chrome.
While so-called good taste can help one to exercise the right kind of restraint for achieving a certain type of focused work, it can also sometimes get in the way of surrendering to your true desires. Toddler Body seems to be all about willfully succumbing to those urges and following them to their (il)logical conclusions.