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Toh Kay - Streetlight Lullabies (Cover Artwork)

Toh Kay

Toh Kay: Streetlight LullabiesStreetlight Lullabies (2011)
Pentimento Music Company

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
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Contributed by: HeistHeist
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Hold on to your seats, we're getting another album of Streetlight Manifesto covers. Streetlight Lullabies features 10 acoustic Streetlight Manifesto and Catch 22 songs performed by frontman Tomas Kalnoky, under the pseudonym Toh Kay. Frontmen taking an aside from their full band to release stripp.
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Hold on to your seats, we're getting another album of Streetlight Manifesto covers.

Streetlight Lullabies features 10 acoustic Streetlight Manifesto and Catch 22 songs performed by frontman Tomas Kalnoky, under the pseudonym Toh Kay. Frontmen taking an aside from their full band to release stripped down versions of their songs is no longer a rare phenomenon; the Revival Tour is definite proof that less can be more. Those projects tend to field from the gruff, more straightforward side of punk rock. Does the formula still work when applied to a ska punk act?

Mostly.

Whereas most Streetlight songs rarely play at less than a cacophonous din, Toh Kay has given his songs an indie-folk makeover. Many "solo" albums contain a wide variety of instrumentation that surpasses the accompaniment of the original songs, but Streetlight Lullabies is just Kalnoky and an acoustic guitar. Thankfully, his liberal use of fingerpicking gives the songs a unique texture and energy that fills the void left by the brass section of his band. In fact, if you haven't heard the originals, you'd never know they were originally composed as ska punk songs. It speaks to the quality of the source material that they can be reimagined in a different style without sounding like anything is missing. The quieter music complements the lyrics; the somber verses about death and meaning seem better suited quietly sung to an acoustic backdrop than screamed over a half dozen other musicians.

There are a couple missteps. The song "Dear Sergio" makes its incredulous fourth recorded appearance, and (counting side project Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution's performance of the song) second acoustic version. Calling it superfluous is an understatement. The other Catch 22 song, "Sick and Sad," just gets it wrong. With cringe-worthy lyrics and running too long at three minutes, the 1998 track shows its age and should have been replaced by one of the stronger tracks from the vault. The remaining eight songs come from Streetlight Manifesto's catalogue, and fare much better.

The tricky part comes in who to recommend this album to. Fans of Kalnoky's bands are familiar with all these songs, having heard them in multiple iterations before. The songs, especially from the Streetlight Manifesto era, have been imbued with a new life that may win new fans from the realm of indie rock. On the other hand, this penchant for rerecording old songs is bordering on farce. Ultimately, Streetlight Lullabies is a good album, but an unnecessary one. Yet when I consider the many bands and their labels that put out questionable re-releases, deluxe editions and remasters less than a year after the original release with little to no content changes, I'm inclined to give Toh Kay a pass. At least until Streetight Lullabies, Volume 2.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
mattmann33 (March 6, 2012)

I really liked the album, its cool to see all the ways they want their music to be heard. Overall it came out pretty good

KungPowza (December 7, 2011)

Pretty good review, although I disagree on "Sick and Sad". I think Toh Kay's rendition is the definitive version of the song, although I can see if you don't like the song to begin with, you wouldn't like this one either.

joe_weasel (December 7, 2011)

this was a good listen. don't know if i'll return to it much, but it was an interesting take on these songs. tom mentioned in an AP interview that most of his songs start out like this - and sometimes its even painful for him to add in all the bells and whistles. so it's cool to hear the origin of these tracks.

like any streetlight fan, i wish there was more original material. but honestly, would the same people be bitching about that if they JUST released 2003's numb and 2007's somewhere. i think people feel as though they could be putting their energy into new material instead of covers. but what if that's not true. what if it does take the band along time to generate material, and instead of leaving fans with nothing, they fill the gaps with a cover album or different versions of their older songs? just a thought.

ZappBrannigan (December 7, 2011)

I love this band but this CD is okay. I guess it's nice having alternate versions that are a little more relaxing when I'm in the mood for it. But the most frustrating thing is that when (if?) they finally release another original album, we'll have to sit through another few projects worth of covers.

telegraphrocks (December 6, 2011)

Tomas Kalnoky is a GREAT songwriter, but this is so fucking boring. I know it was supposedly recorded during downtime of the record of a (likely) full-band (read: better) album, but it just seems pointless.

Some of the songs are waaaaaayyyy too fucking long, and others are just boring. There are a few good ones here, and the good ones are great.

I'd love to hear him do a solo record of ORIGINAL songs (can be even be considered "covers" if he wrote them in the first place), but hearing shit re-done over and over is frustrating.

burntorangepeel (December 6, 2011)

I was also hoping for acoustic version of "Receiving End Of It All," which, I think, is one of the greatest songs of the last 10 or so years.

brystr06 (December 6, 2011)

Most people I've talked to have actually specifically cited Sick & Sad as a standout track. I would have to agree with them. I thought he did a really good job with that one. Don't really understand what track from the "vault" would have been better suited....

puddboy (December 6, 2011)

Would have liked to hear his acoustic version of 'Receiving End of it All', but I agree that this album seems unnecessary. I will get excited when the follow up to Somewhere in the Between is announced.

Jammers (December 6, 2011)

I LOVE Streetlight Manifesto and I think Tomas is one of the most talented songwriters out there, but I really do not like this album. It's unnecessary. If I hear another version of "Dear Sergio" I'm going to shove a pencil into my ear.

Jag (December 6, 2011)

I think it is worth noting that what we're hearing on this album are what Streetlight Manifesto songs sound like before the horns, drums, and electric elements are added. Kalnoky has explained that his song writing process involves writing everything on an acoustic guitar, humming the melody, and writing the lyrics. He also said that the final product with Streetlight is very different from how the songs are originally written due to the influence of the rest of the band and the addition of the Streetlight sound. He doesn't write ska-punk songs, but when the songs he writes are arranged for Streetlight they become ska-punk songs. If anything we're offered insight into the process and how Kalnoky sees his music.

r3vengetherapy (December 6, 2011)

Good review. And while I agree that it's bullshit when labels repackage and rerelease albums for a quick buck, it's different when the artist is doing it. He went into the studio and recorded these songs for the second and third time (or more? I have no idea) and I think that's worse, honestly. He made the active decision to record songs that he wrote with his bands YEARS ago, and he's going to sell records because it contains different versions of those songs, but nothing new. Is it that hard to write a new song? This just comes off as a cash grab to me, and that's pretty miserable. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong and he just really wanted to rerecord these songs because he genuinely wanted it to exist.

FireInTheSole (December 6, 2011)

I love Streetlight, but I don't like this album. I had high expectations, but I'm amazed at how he 'borified' brillaint songs like A Better Place.

And now I want a new Streetlight album, original material only. And another one after that. Stop the covering for a while. As much as I love the band, it's too much.

johngentile (December 6, 2011)

I'm not a fan of this band, but you did a really good review. I really like your last line.

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