Written by Daniel Belgrad (Vern Matz)
Jockeys of Love finds two young men at the precipice of recognizable greatness, a rare moment of hidden stardom before the ice thaws around them. There are two simple things that the boys do well… really well, actually. They are great songwriters and great producers. Almost nobody is both of those things.
TOLEDO’s sophomore EP swirls around, the vocals are ghostly without lacking presence, and the whole thing maintains a careful balance of detachment and closeness. Most sadboy or sadgirl indie prefers to remain close to you, clutching tightly to the corners of predictable emotions. Jockeys does not sit within its own sadness, but instead looks upon it from afar and plays with it like a deck of cards. In doing so, TOLEDO retains emotional poignancy without making it the only selling point, and without reveling in the triteness of an outpour.
The instrumentation is nauseatingly good. Dan Alvarez De Toledo plays the drums in a way that suggests controlled amateurism, despite his nearly virtuoso ability to play a multitude of instruments. Jordan Dunn-Pilz has a profound ability to loop guitar melodies around the vocals, often understated but always moving. And, among other musical tricks, their instrumentation is always in the service of their vocal melodies, sitting pristine like a gem amidst a floating maze. TOLEDO thoroughly focuses in upon an exacting musical vision; there is only positive building, climbing closer and closer towards the sublime.
Some quick blurbs about the track list:
- It’s Alive! – a perfect portrait of joyful sadness. two steps removed from pain, reveling in the fact that such catharsis can exist within living, moving beings
- Dog Has Its Day – controlled, balanced, and direct, it is the rock of the EP
- Challenger – the part of the movie where the guy realizes he messed up and in a moment of passion flies across the country to win her back
- You Won’t – the most chords I’ve ever heard in a TOLEDO song. a pensive and ultimately triumphant song with a chorus that would inspire wolves to howl at the moon
- Sunday Funday – a gleeful sounding tune about alcoholism, a fantastic encapsulation of TOLEDO’s ability to be emotional sincere and simultaneously playful
- Needer – if it were a b-side in the 90s, all their diehard fans would say, “Do you even know Needer? It’s their best song”. A special shout out to my favorite quarantine line – “I worry about my apartment in New York”.
I hope this article becomes a relic of that brief period, before TOLEDO took their rightful place at the head of indie’s bedroom pop era. For now, these two burn very brightly, and with some luck, they will burn for a long, long time.