Jockeys of Love is the latest release from indie-boy duo Toledo. The EP is another installment of the band’s breezy instrumentals, with relaxed drums by Dan Alvarez De Toledo looping behind folksy guitar. Much like previous Toledo releases, Jockeys of Love walks the line between folktronica and bedroom pop. It feels familiar yet playful, and that’s ultimately the charm of the EP. Dan and bandmate Jordan Dunn-Pilz sound like they’re having fun throughout all six songs. So even when their music is hard to get excited about, it’s also hard to dislike.
Kicking off with “It’s Alive!” the duo uses the story of Frankenstein’s Monster to explore power dynamics. This is one of the strongest points of the project. The contrast between the song’s cheerful melody and somewhat disturbing lyrics is striking, but it’s also joyful somehow. After verses describing the toxic and controlling behavior of a partner, the song’s chorus breaks through with a contented realization: “I’ll never be what you want me to be.” The band is enjoying their new perspective, one where toxic behavior is obvious, consequently creating space for freedom and growth.
Jockeys of Love is at its best when the duo’s lyrics are in focus. Besides the opener, songs like “Dog Has Its Day” easily draw the listener close with intimately honest portrayals of loss and hurt. But this skilled writing is distracted by cliche vocal work and production. Jockeys of Love is performed by the light voices endemic of modern indie-boy pop-folk, and its production is the sound of countless other projects. Working within your genre isn’t a problem, but lacking definition is. Relatably sad music is popular for a reason, but when artists rely on overused formulas to share their stories, it’s difficult to argue why listeners should play album X over album Y. In some cases, it’s hard to even distinguish album X from Y. Toledo’s latest is good, but it’s frustratingly similar to countless other projects.