by Jacob Carter
Artist: A Giant Dog
Release Date: August 25, 2017
Something I really appreciate is when a band is able to evoke a certain place or setting through their music. Every band’s hometown has a huge amount of influence in creating their sound, but some groups embrace that influence more than others. Toy, the latest album from Austin-based punk outfit A Giant Dog, is deeply in love with both Austin and the state of Texas as a whole. Band co-founders Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen have been fine-tuning the sound of their various projects for years, and on Toy, they sound totally at home.
It is kind of impressive the amount of different things Ellis finds the time to sing about on this album. There are songs like “Fake Plastic Trees” about having to ask for help (with everything from loneliness to getting a ride to work), songs like “Bendover” and “Photograph” which may be the most sexually charged things I have heard all year, and politically charged anthems like “Toy Gun” where Ellis comes to terms with her home state’s extremely conservative political tendencies.. On paper, Toy sounds like a bleak album, given that every song is about how much life sucks, or how hard it is to get by.
However, this album has too much energy for it to sound defeatist. Many of the songs on Toy have themes of loneliness and mental anguish, but the way they are described by Ellis make the album as a whole sound cathartic.
So much of Toy sounds written to be universally relatable. Ellis and Cashen have written a collection of songs that have a strong sense of community, in that everyone can relate to loving life’s highs and dreading its lows. As Ellis says on “Rollercoaster”, “You’re hanging upside down so high above the ground afraid of looking down afraid of falling out.”
Compared to A Giant Dog’s earlier albums, Toy sounds like it is taken some influence from Ellis and Cashen’s other project Sweet Spirit. There is a distinctive southern free-wheeling feeling to songs like “Get Away” and the lyrics in “Lucky Ponderosa”. But at its core, A Giant Dog is a band with punk roots, which are as apparent as ever in this album. Every song has a healthy drumbeat and guitar hooks that keep the pace up even in slower songs like “Rollercoaster”.
Toy is a fun album that’s as cathartic to listen to as I am sure it was to write. It is up front about the hardships of life, but A Giant Dog revels in its ability to enjoy itself despite that.