Big Weekend for the Tontons

This is a good time for local music. From a fan's vantage point, albums have been dropping left and right. It's hard to find artists willing to take the time to write a solid full-length album rather than have five great tracks and seven fillers. For local musicians, step your game up. You may think you're doing well, but the Tontons' self-titled album raises the bar so high, only an "A" game can hope to compete.

Let's get something straight: No single song on the quartet's first full-length is better than the rest. Thus, critiquing will have to be done by category. First come Asli Omar's vocals. Her sultry, enchanting voice complements the cheery pop accompaniment very well, especially on "Kaleidoscope" and "Leon." Whereas the former finds her singing with more of a soul inflection, the other is light and airy pop, an act that can only be pulled off by a natural. This talent is clean.

Next is the music of Adam Martinez, Justin Martinez and Tom Nguyen. With a lead singer like Omar, it would be really easy to sit back and take a supporting role to her star power. But not these guys. They refuse to be ugly best friend on this album, and come equally as full-force with their music.

From the very beginning of "1816," it's something more than just insta-pop. The guitar breakdowns on this song will get stuck in people's minds; they're unforgettable. On "Dancing," things are a little bit more risky. Playing a style that was made popular by club-happy bands like the Sounds and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this is probably the closest that the band gets to sounding like everything else. The talent is still there, but the song teeters towards ordinary, only with disco guitars. However, it's saved by Nguyen's drums, taking solos where you wouldn't think they belonged, in a straight-up rock and roll style that gives it the edge it needs.

Lastly, if it's not already apparent these young men can hold their own, try the surfing-bandito number "Cockeyed Cowboys." No vocals at all, it's just the boys having a two-minute jam session and proving the Tontons are talented all the way around. To pull a line from Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink, "This album is white hot."

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Kim Douglass
Contact: Kim Douglass