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Toby Thomas Churchill is perhaps one of the most unique musical artists in the Twin Ports area. I’ve been around in the Twin Ports scene for more than a decade and can’t really say that I’ve seen an artist take on music quite the way he does. Most everything he has done is a refreshing break from pretty much anything you’re used to listening to. The thing is, what he does is actually good and at times it’s thought provoking and deeper than what it lets on.
Let’s just start with the title of the album, “Where is My Rumspringa Darling?” For those not in the know, Rumspringa is a term for teens in Amish communities. I’m not exactly sure how this title has anything to do with album, but I’ll try to explain. During late adolescence, Amish teens are allowed to just do whatever, watch the movie/documentary “Devil’s Playground” to get the full idea. It’s an amusing concept to hook up with a wayward Amish girl if that’s what the title is getting at.
Churchill’s last album, “Death,” was released a few years ago and it was an experimental delight. This album is also experimental but it stays quite catchy while still challenging the listener. Churchill has a way of making the weird and quirky to be somehow cool. It pushes limits without even looking like he’s trying to. That’s really Churchill’s overall talent, and yes, Churchill approaches music like few do anywhere, especially the Twin Ports area. He’s also pretty humble and laid back, which is kind of nice when you’re dealing with someone.
The first track, “Football Sex,” is the selected single off the album and there will be a music video for it coming soon. This song really doesn’t have much to do with either football or sex. The song has a slow and smooth groove and it would seem like some sort of of love song. The lyrics are a little hard to pick up in spots, but the chorus goes, “It is summer now just like I promised you, darling, I’ll kill your dad for you.” So, this seductive and easy going song is actually kind of creepy…but in a fun way.
The next song that I’d like to mention is “You Know We Did.” The premise behind this song is about a rock band that tours and goes to the most awful, violent and politically restrained places on earth. Kabal, Afghanistan; The Gaza Strip; Bagdad; Siberian prisons; the Congo; Rwanda and Detroit to name just a few. Again, the synth sounds and vibe of the song would make the listener think that this track is a feel good song, but in fact it’s making a statement of sorts. “Like a lot of my work, I try and get the listener to sort of recalibrate their feelings on a given major topic, by using dark humor, metaphor, tongue-in-cheek, etc.” stated Churchill about the song. The synth tones on this album are terrific. Churchill credits the use of an omnichord. The omnichord is kind of like a synth and half of an accordion from what I can make of it, a pretty interesting and unique instrument. It seems fitting.
The next track, “Kifer,” deals with the murder of Haile Kifer in Little Falls, MN a couple of years ago. It’s a haunting song but Churchill’s vocals are in a high pitched falsetto kind of voice. Churchill actually utilizes this quite a bit in the album and pulls it off well overall. His vocals are offset by somber droning back up vocals which creates some definite hints of darkness and depth.
Another track that I enjoyed off the album is the track, “Bad People.” The song sucks you in right away with the funky and somewhat spacey synthed out jam that underlies the song. The opening lines of the song again play at deeper social matters, “Bad people they need to go, they need to go to jail. Good people, they’re on their way to work, they need to be on time for work, yes they do.” If the song was playing in the background at some restaurant, it’d be hard to pick up the message that this song is delivering, but Churchill is delving deeper than just sounds. The sounds, they are certainly catchy and interesting.
In my opinion, the album winds down a little at the end and that’s alright. Overall, this album carries a kind of timelessness in it’s feel. Some of the subject matter is tuned for modern days, but there is just something that feels like it’s throwing back to some lost album for decades ago, yet hits with an edge meant for right now. The synths are balanced with traditional instruments, but the album is leaning towards the electronic side.
Churchill produced the album and it was recorded at engineered at Crazy Beast Studios in Minneapolis by Ben Durrant. There were a few guest artists on the album including Ryan Lovan on drums, Ben Durrant on guitar, James Everest on bass, Danny Cosgrove on backing vocals and some looping by Martin Dosh. It’s really a listening experience that is worth experiencing because it just stands out.
Churchill will be releasing this new album at The Red Herring Lounge under the local Chaperone Records label on Saturday. He’ll be sharing the stage with special guest, Dosh.