Houston’s The Tontons released an enchantingly short five-song EP, “Golden”, today. It’s an oddly eclectic blend of torch-songs, sonic blues, soulful indie rock, and even one track, “Charlie”, that sounds more like Tin Pan Alley. The band moves fluidly between song styles that would fit on records by Morcheeba (“Big Calm”, 1998), The Noisettes (circa 2007’s “What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?”), or Saint Etienne (“Good Humor”, 1998). This is truly an off-kilter mix of musical genres. But it doesn’t come off as unfocused, but more like a mini, stylistic tour de force, showcasing a band sophisticated and confident in its own taste and approach. Lead singer, Asli Omar, is supremely blessed with irresistible, golden pipes — all luxurious and pliant like Angela McCluskey‘s vocals. There’s something gloriously refreshing listening to the purity of her voice on “So Young”, especially in an era of highly textured musical arrangements and purposefully obscured vocals. The band is well aware of its sound, the title “Golden”, hints at a touch of age in each track. If you’ve ever seen The Tontons play live, Omar doesn’t so much as dance, as move her arms around like she was Mary Wilson in The Supremes. It’s quite charming, and just another way one time period melds into the presentation of The Tontons’ music. Their song “Vietnam” is a dissonant, strange track with a Weimar Republic cabaret bent, snaking electric guitar rhythm, and an off-tempo syncopation which makes it sound like a fully-fledged sister-song to Eleni Mandell’s “Nickel-Plated Man”. It’s a hypnotic and resounding track that would make Tom Waits proud. “Golden” is like that marvelous flea-market find, vintage and yet so damn original. The rest of the band is: Adam Martinez, Tom Nguyen, and Justin Martinez. The Tontons have released two albums to date and you can hear more of their music at bandcamp. — David D. Robbins Jr.
The Tontons “So Young”