As a developing band emerging into the “beach goth” scene, you might at first expect this EP to be brimming with garage rock beats fast paced drum rhythms, maybe even unintelligible singing/yelling of angsty lyrics. While “Hot Stuff” definitely holds true to some aspects of this recently identified sub genre (hello, subtle reverb guitar riffs and echoey vocals) Daniel Alvarez and Jordan Dunn of TOLEDO manage to create their own take on surf inspired music, adding more wistful, indie folk elements to their ultimately cohesive debut EP.
The track listing begins with the titular song, “Hot Stuff”, in which the listener is greeted with archetypal surf inspired sounds, such as one would find on a record from Beach Fossils or The Drums. Moving past the opening lo-fi vocals, Alvarez and Dunn-Pilz croon lyrics that can only suggest melancholy longing for someone familiar: “There you go again, in my dreams again,” accompanied by the frustration of yearning for a familiar time, “I’ve waited this long, I’m so tired of change.” Peaks and valleys in voice range, complement the song’s instrumentation, which consists of fittingly sanguine guitar strumming. The track fades out by including a recording of an unknown woman speaking, something reminiscent of HOMESHAKE’s “Every Single Thing.” The duo successfully follow the map for quirky sad boys getting their point across in the song’s home video-inspired music video, as it interchangeably shows the two playing their guitars in uncomplicated settings, such as a grassy area in front of a row of houses and trees.
Slowing down any momentum the EP had as far as upbeat instrumentation, “Knot” is the quintessential song for the embittered, or for the casual listener who is in the mood to sulk. The duo’s emotions are backed by dejected verses, “what do you expect, you got off on hurting me and I am still tangled and broken,” reminding the listener of the demoralizing effects of heartbreak and its subsequent contrition: “I should’ve loved anyone else, I’ll never love anyone else.” Despite the downhearted tone, the overall sound of the song seems fitting for tranquil coffee house listening, as it stays consistent with lo-fi vocals and down tempo guitar and drums. “Some Samurai” gives the listener a chance to breathe easy again, with a slightly cheerier tone to drive along the coast to.
As the duo dives deeper into this slowed down pattern, “Que Pasa” denotes both a distaste for past events through lyrics like “Was so convinced that when we argued you were wrong, but you’re not”, and yet a sense of nostalgia with the simple chord progressions. Mixed with breezy vocals, this creates a folky soundscape. “Bath” brings the tempo up a notch again with small electronic beats, before dropping into the lo-fi zone once again with “Sick!” For a track title that includes an exclamation point, it’s ironically subdued, with the shining star being the progressive guitar fade out at the end, eerily closing the EP.
While still keeping true to some of the surfy aspects of their debut single, “Crane Song”, the songs on Hot Stuff don’t have has much variety in composition. While TOLEDO’s sound often comes off as more generic than signature, they did manage to make Hot Stuff cohesive. No track on the EP sounds out of place, and it’s clear that TOLEDO is on its way to confidently establishing its own sound in the realm that is beach goth. Alvarez and Dunn blend expressions of heartbreak and self awareness, with underlying feelings of optimism to create a record that validates what their manager had to say about them: “They’re weirdos, but they’re happy”.