Album Review: Toy Boats - 'Diamond Teeth'

17 April 2012 | 8:30 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

A wonderful addition to the Resist Records catalogue.

Older folk always shake their heads in amazement that Byron Bay is home to one of the best hardcore scenes in the country. For a town most commonly associated with surfing, dreadlocks and smoking pot, Byron’s mighty healthy scene has spawned bands like 50 Lions, Crime Scene and Word Up!, not to mention Australia’s biggest heavy music export ever – Parkway Drive. Well, here’s a dude who has emerged out of that hardcore community and is signed to Resist Records who sounds nothing like his peers, and would, ironically, be more suited to playing the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival that his hometown hosts every year. Having fronted hardcore band Dead Ends, Hugo Costin-Neilsen has branched out on his own under the moniker Toy Boats. Having released a demo entitled “2 A.M. Bones” last year, 2012 sees the young singer-songwriter’s debut “Diamond Teeth” released by Australia’s premier punk and hardcore label. Not too shabby for a guy who’s barely left his teenaged years.

Recorded by Sam Johnson (50 Lions, House Vs Hurricane, A Death In The Family) at Three Phase Studios in Melbourne, this six track EP is all at once depressing, rousing and catchy. From the initial, whimsical strums of “The Colours Went With You” a strong City and Colour influence seems apparent, from Costin-Neilsen’s passionate vocal delivery to his marriage of airy acoustica with rock n’ roll guitar hooks. In addition to stylistic similarities, the echoey, live-sounding production of “Diamond Teeth” is reminiscent of Dallas Green’s latest album “Little Hell”. Bon Iver comparisons are also obvious due to Toy Boats’ understated and nostalgic feel. What separates Toy Boats from these acts is his youth, which is evident on two levels. At best it affords a sense of freshness and sincerity which often seem sorely lacking from even ‘alternative’ airwaves. At worst, however, some moments of “Diamond Teeth” come across as contrived and overly sentimental, like on the title track where Costin-Neilsen wails “I felt like a little kid on Christmas”.

Having also appeared on the Toy Boats demo, “Rent” is probably the most memorable track on “Diamond Teeth”. Its melancholic recipe of his acoustic guitar and an electric accompaniment combined with a more upbeat tempo means that unlike other tracks including “Broken Arms (Warmer Than Summer)”, it could never feel like background music. “Rent” also boasts one of the best lines on the CD, “keep my name on your tongue and I’ll pay rent”. Likewise, the pace of closer “Kids Dying Of Old Age” is pretty refreshing after what is in many ways, quite a low-key affair (especially for the impatient hardcore listener). What’s more, the final, bourbon-soaked, dreamy solo is an excellent way to lead out an excellent EP.

Definitely not one to please the purist hardcore punters, whether Resist Records’ signing of a young singer-songwriter will pay off is yet to be seen. With artwork that looks great, a set of fairly accessible acoustic tunes, and the best label in Australian hardcore and punk behind it, “Diamond Teeth” might just be 2012’s most stylish first release from a songsmith impressive beyond his years.

1. The Colours Went With You

2. Broken Arms (Warmer Than Summer)

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

3. Rent

4. Bouquets (Died In My Living Room)

5. Diamond Teeth

6. Kids Dying Of Old Age