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Shiny Toy Guns triumph in newest album

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Fans of Los Angeles-based synthrock group Shiny Toy Guns have a new reason to celebrate: the band has returned with its third full-length studio album, fittingly titled “III.” Much to the delight of fans, the band has also reunited with female vocalist Carah Faye Charnow, who left the group after its release of the grammy-nominated album, “We Are Pilots.”

Charnow’s powerful vocals on tracks like “Le Disko” and “Don’t Cry Out” helped the band capture national attention during its early years, propelling Shiny Toy Guns to major prominence in the electronica and alternative rock scenes. With Charnow back in the mix, Shiny Toy Guns is as electrifying as ever.

The band released a song from “III,” called “The Sun,” back in March of 2011. After releasing “The Sun,” the band kept its loyal fan base eagerly awaiting the full album for over a year and a half.  Now that “III” is finally here, fans can rest assured that this dynamic genre-fusing electro album was well worth waiting for. “III” is by far one of the strongest albums of 2012.

The new record seems to pick up where “We Are Pilots” left off, largely eliminating refinements made to the band’s sound with its 2008 release, “Season of Poison.” While “Season of Poison” introduced a heavier rock sound and was often largely guitar-driven, “III” reverts back to synth-dominant timbres and more danceable beats.

Rather than rehashing “We Are Pilots,” the new album builds off of the latter’s successes. Shiny Toy Guns’ founding members – singer and guitarist Gregori Chad Petree, and synth player and bassist Jeremy Dawson – work flawlessly together in the creation of impeccable compositions. Dawson brings all of his best synth hooks, supported by Petree’s complementary guitar parts.

While Petree has traditionally taken on the bulk of the group’s vocal duties, he steps out of the spotlight this time around, allowing Charnow to do most of the singing on “III.”

The album hits the ground running with “Somewhere to Hide,” an upbeat dance track driven by a hammering synth bass. Charnow sings a satisfying melody with a choppy, almost robotic rhythm. Her novel approach makes “Somewhere to Hide” all the more interesting.

The next track, titled “Waiting Alone,” is one of the album’s singles. Charnow’s vocals are pungently emotional from her first line: “Do you really never see me when you come home late at night? I’m always waiting alone for you.” Petree joins in for a back-and-forth duet that feels much like a conversation between quarreling lovers.

Petree and Charnow’s tear-jerking vocals work together flawlessly on other tracks as well, such as the heavy, rock-oriented “Carrie” and the softer, more sentimental “Wait For Me.” Their voices collide during the former, and croon softly in concert in the latter. In an age where auto-tune has become a gimmicky crutch for pop artists with limited musical ability, creative application of the vocoder on “III” proves that the auto-tune effect can still be done tastefully.

The two tracks that stand out the most are “Speaking Japanese” and “Fading Listening.” “Speaking Japanese” is a hard, heavy dance track that shimmies on the outskirts of dubstep and Kesha-style electropop. While the members of Shiny Toy Guns flirt with pop music trends, the effort feels anything but forced. This makes “Speaking Japanese” a clear home run, and a likely candidate for the album’s next single.

Meanwhile, “Fading Listening” has already emerged as a single, and for good reason. The song’s retro pop and disco-like elements give it tremendous potential for commercial success.

What makes “III” so spectacular is the feeling of completion it garners from its inclusion of songs that cross the musical spectrum from soft to powerful. Ending with a tender piano ballad called “Take Me Back to Where I Was,” the album resolves with a sense of wholeness and finality.

Overall, “III” makes for an impeccable listening experience, ultimately devoid of weak points. The album’s perfected blend of rock and electronica is compelling and catchy from start to finish, and is liable to earn Shiny Toy Guns another Grammy nomination. Perhaps this time they can bring home the trophy.

Chris Trubac can be reached at ctrubac@student.umass.edu.

 

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