Brooklyn Mastermind Tōth Releases Dazzling Debut Solo Album
Alex Toth knows heartbreak. He knows love and loss and wanting and wishing and now he knows magic too. A sonic genius in all respects, the Brooklyn-based musician and member of art-pop band Rubblebucket recently released his debut solo album, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary, a dazzling collection that finds him as Tōth, reflecting on the healing process of his last big breakup. What results is something almost disturbingly mystical — no surprise considering how wistful and skilled Toth is as a songwriter and instrumentalist.
Hear what Tōth had to tell The Music Mermaid about his new album below…
Practice Magic opens with “Down For The Count,” awash from the get-go in sharp strums slicing through a misty cloud of vocal echoes that bow out to center on Tōth’s wail. In just one quick song, we get endless examples of Tōth’s versatility — we hear his voice do so many different things and we hear the instrumentation swell and sweep and dip, setting the stage for the dreamy oddities to come from this album. On “Song To Make You Fall In Love With Me,” Tōth delivers more cutting strings in a lush soundscape, a case of thumping hypnosis as he gives words to that desperate feeling of wanting to be loved. It’s jarring, in a way, because each instrumental element is at war with each other, but together, the arrangement is a dreamy, slightly psychedelic effort. On “No Reason,” Tōth puts his jazz and classical talents to good use, infusing a sweetened indie gem with slow strings and a deep brass section, a lazing piece that drones and drifts. “Copilot” features strings on a more grandiose scale — they’re searing and elegant even though the rest of the arrangement is doubled up in a kind of gallop, clopping among percussive shimmers and pumps.
On “Picture Of You,” Tōth doles out mini increments of his jazz skill. It’s a totally new sound for the album — it’s not necessarily dreamy or soft like the previous tracks. There’s an edge to it in its quick indie-rock flavor, plus Tōth’s vocals are mostly devoid of their falsetto tendencies, a darker dive into the more robust, high-powered arrangements Tōth is capable of too. The halfway point of Practice Magic finds the eerie “Funny Business,” a minimalist composition built on gently plucked acoustic strums and what becomes a ghostly cloud of sparse folk rhythms. The standout of the record is “When I Awoke,” a work of art in that it fuses an elegant orchestral section with softer acoustic plumes all while Tōth travels new tonal territory. “Guts To Fly” is the perfect accompaniment to its predecessor because it shares similar components — like the vocals trapped in dust or the looming percussive beats or the guitar riff — but there’s enough new about it for it to exist as a pretty standalone.
As we near the end of Practice Magic, we find the cleverly-named “Sentientiment,” built first on blaring horns and patters of percussion before morphing into an intriguing soundscape of synth elements and alt-rock rhythms. One of the most gut-punch moments of the record is “Blessing Song,” an aching effort in which Tōth spits a stream-of-consciousness declaration over quick acoustic picking and distant synth looms. Finally, after an album of longing and reflection, he’s come to terms (for lack of better words) with the breakup and only wishes his past love the best in a series of sweet truths like “I hope you’re alright and I’m sorry about the fights that we’ve lost.” Forty minutes later, the album ends with “Decay,” a lazing song that mimics its title — it seems to fall apart, like skin sliding off of bones, a haunting composition that moves slow and slips into nothingness.
Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary is a stunning breakup album for many reasons: it’s never bitter, only hurt. There are a lot of things Tōth reflects on — mostly sullenly but sometimes hopefully — from missing early mornings with his love to his own black hole of loneliness to giving in to unexpected heart remedies and more, each soul-deep subject written about carefully and brutally, a testament to Tōth’s lyricism, never anything less than always honest no matter how much it hurts. Set against the dizzy dazzle of his dreamy instrumentation, it’s an album meant to disturb — then soothe — the senses.
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Featured photo of Alex Toth by Kenneth Edwards