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Toh Kay - Streetlight Lullabies Album Cover

Toh Kay - Streetlight Lullabies

Reviewed by
8.5
Toh Kay - Streetlight Lullabies
Record Label: Pentimento Music Company
Release Date: November 22, 2011
When listening to a finalized piece of music, it's easy to miss many basic aspects of the songwriting. We hear the final product, but the framework for that can be obscured by the layers of instrumentation and emphases that are added to create the finished work. With Streetlight Lullabies, Streetlight Manifesto frontman Tomas Kalnoky (here performing under the pseudonym Toh Kay) strips his songs down to the bare bones, showing the listener what's really under all those horns, upstrokes, and ska-punk shouts: a collection of fantastically written songs about life and death.

The album, Kalnoky's first solo effort, is a selection of Streetlight Manifesto and Catch-22 songs performed on an acoustic guitar without the contributions of his bandmates. The resulting recordings are overall somber, and bring increased focus to the lyrics and structure of the songs -- which is quite independent of the tone of the the original releases. In the same way food pairing can bring out different characters in a bottle of wine, the sober atmosphere of this album reveals qualities in the songs you don't quite catch in the originals.

Vocally, Kalnoky here takes on a relaxed, soft serenade. While he doesn't show off much range here, that's not the point; as implied by the album's title, the songs are calm and even in tone, revealing the most basic elements of their structures. The musicianship, however, is a bit more intricate. Toh Kay shows off his talents for quickly picking out each chord. While the songs themselves flow serenely, Kalnoky is alternating between frantic finger picking and rapid strumming. Without breaking the soothing tone of the album, he hurriedly touts his pick-hand chops on tracks like "Watch It Crash" and "Would You Be Impressed?". Other tracks have him at a more relaxed pace, such as the cool and leisurely "Somewhere In The Between". Due to the minimal production and basic atmosphere on the album, the guitar sounds here are raw, refined only by Kalnoky's melodies.

It's worth noting the increased focus on lyricism these recordings bring. Without all the horns and aggression, the moods of the songs are quite changed. While you might not expect heavy subject matter in most ska songs, Kalnoky uses this album to showcase the weightiness of his own lyrics. The songs on this album focus on the difficulties of life, the value in living, and the pain of loss. As he address sin and guilt, suicide, and mourning, the lyrics give you plenty to think about.

With Streetlight Lullabies, Kalnoky proves that through the lens of genre, the expression of a song can be greatly altered. Any song written, in its most basic state, has the potential to take on any number of affectations depending on the instrumentation and elements introduced in later phases. Or he just provides some great re-imaginings of his own songs. Either way, the first Toh Kay album is an excellent listen.

Track List1 - Watch It Crash
2 - Somewhere in the Between
3 - Forty Days
4 - We Will Fall Together
5 - Dear Sergio
6 - Would You Be Impressed?
7 - Sick and Sad
8 - A Moment of Silence
9 - The Big Sleep
10 - A Better Place, A Better Time
This review is a user submitted review from ChaseTx. You can see all of ChaseTx's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 5 of 5
05:43 PM on 09/25/12
#2
JamieTheSonger
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I could never listen to Streetlight but this album is so good that it constantly makes me try again.
08:40 PM on 09/25/12
#3
ChaseTx
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I could never listen to Streetlight but this album is so good that it constantly makes me try again.
He's definitely a great songwriter, and the band is outstanding, so it just comes down to how much you like ska. Also, Streetlight has a new album coming out in November, and there will be a Toh Kay version.
09:21 AM on 09/26/12
#4
JamieTheSonger
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He's definitely a great songwriter, and the band is outstanding, so it just comes down to how much you like ska. Also, Streetlight has a new album coming out in November, and there will be a Toh Kay version.
I definitely like Streetlight, but I just can't call myself a fan for some unknown subconscious nitpicky reason.
10:37 PM on 12/07/12
#5
RyanGarner
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I don't know why I'm just getting around to listening to this but these renditions are so good. He's a really solid guitar player too.

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