Formed in May 2010, Alberta band Toques and Bears seems almost too young to already be onto their second album. Comparisons to The Sheepdogs come quickly to mind when listening to Stand Tall, and the band makes heavy use of the same 60’s sound.
Some tracks, like “Leaving Dust”, come across as more psychedelic, with guitarists Taylor Ackerman and Brett Skauge bending their strings a bit and letting the guitar riffs be the focus of the song. “Stand Tall” and “Sensing a Chance to Improve” are more classic sounding pieces, with the latter showing off the influence of The Who. In contrast, “Bum Smack Don’t Fly in the Jungle” sounds more 90’s metal, focusing on distortion and stressed vocals.
The second half of the album slows down with some surf rock and bluegrass, and this starts to make things feel a bit all over the place musically. The sudden transition into the Jack Johnson styled “Let’s Go” comes as a bit of a shock. Ultimately the album is held together by the alt-country sound currently coming out of the Prairies, and the genre jumping has the potential to be fun. However, it does run the risk of only giving listeners a couple of songs that they’re really into.
The production on Stand Tall is solid, and the variation in tracks doesn’t affect the overall sound, which comes out nice and clear. In the end, the adaptability and range of influences make Toques and Beards an entertaining band to listen to.
– Eleni Armenakis