The Island of Misfit Toys
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The Island of Misfit Toys

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE

Chicago, Illinois, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Pop

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"Record Review: The Island of Misfit Toys - 'Bear Hair'"

I remember when I bought my first Bright Eyes record. I was 13, it was Letting Off the Happiness, and I felt I was coming out of my local record shop with a huge secret, with dangerous material. I hadn't listened to very much music at the time. My taste centered on the classic rock from my childhood and whatever was on the radio. I was only just starting to get into Nirvana. But then I started reading about one Bright Eyes on a blog I followed, ended up "sampling" some tracks with Kazaa, and within a month had bought their whole discography. I'd never heard anything that raw before. Oberst's early work still makes me almost uncomfortable with its honesty at times. I kept it like a secret. It was my first musical obsession outside the mainstream, and it shaped my teenage identity as music tends to do.

I can hear plenty of that same rawness in the debut LP from The Island of Misfit Toys. The musical project of Anthony Sanders and a barrelful of his friends produces indie pop that doesn't shy away from getting screamy. Thankfully, Sanders doesn't take himself quite as seriously as Oberst did in his adolescence. The desperate nerd edge throughout Bear Hair supports itself with a healthy sense of humor, an engaging playfulness. If you're going to be sad it's useful to learn to laugh at yourself. Anthony Sanders knows this well.

Sanders draws from more than just the Conor Oberst school of expression. On "Beginnings of a Beard," Sufjan-esque flourishes flit in and out--after all, this isn't the product of a boy in a basement on a four-track, but a fully peopled ensemble. A little Sage Francis idolatry appears, perhaps, on "Work," a fun little rap jam that pops up halfway through the album. Misfit Toys end up sounding predominantly Cloud Cultish in their frankness, imagination and diversity of sound.

Bear Hair is certainly an imaginative record, and one for us nerds. When Sanders dropped a Doctor Who reference in "Bear Hair 2" I almost lost it--how often do you get to hear a song about one of your favorite episodes of one of the best sci-fi TV shows? It felt like an in-joke slipped in just for the rest of us Who nerds. But even those who opt out of enjoying the good Doctor (for shame!) ought to appreciate Bear Hair's aggressive quirk. The way Sanders builds metaphor out of feelings is mighty endearing. The name of the record, for example, arises from Sanders's habit of telling his friends that he'd got a bear in his head whenever he was in a mood. One of those friends turned the phrase into "combing out bear hair" to describe Sanders's process of wrangling moods into songs. The album, therefore, is a collection of the sheddings of Sanders's brain-bears. That sort of childlike associative power is the essence of Bear Hair. It's a record about how to deal with it when we can't deal with it, when the bears in our head just get too big and too angry. Sometimes all we can do is comb them and hope they calm down.

The Island of Misfit Toys take that teenage impulse to pour all our rage into a four-track in the basement, then inflate it to a full-band sound. Bear Hair is raw, but it's also confident, occasionally self-amused, and delightfully successful in what it aims to achieve--a world filled with equal parts feeling and playfulness. - Windy City Rock


"The Island of Misfit Toys - Bear Hair"

Eccentricity can be both a blessing and a curse. In the case of Chicago indie outfit The Island of Misfit Toys and their full-length debut Bear Hair, it is neither. Now before the hate mail starts, allow me to message this thought.

Over the course of 10 songs, the octet tackles a range of genres, straddling the line between riveting guitar-based pop, yelping punk angst and even a dash of hip-hop. The group is anchored by hyper-literate vignettes that unfurl more like a novel than that of a pop song. Lead vocalist and founder Anthony Sanders has a reedy croon that wobbles and sways based on his mood.

When he's placid and chill, his timbre is restrained, refined and incredibly effective. When he's teetering towards rage, disappointment and disenchantment, he's over-the-top, rough-hewn and sometimes tough to take. Thankfully though he's backed by a first-rate rhythm section, shimmering keys and an armful of swerving guitars.

Bear Hair is by no stretch a disappointment. The main problem with it is how varied, schizophrenic and oddball it is. That being said, this kind of lyrical acumen is not often found and when the band turns on the charm, notably "Beginnings of a Beard," and "Hermit Crab", there's enough reason to think that in a couple years, this band will be headlining summer festivals. - AbsolutePunk


"The Island of Misfit Toys - Bear Hair"

I’ll say it right out of the gate, I’ve really tried to stop paying attention to a band’s influence. I do so because I mostly find it at this weird crossroad of pretentiousness and complete utter bullshit (pardon my language, but it’s true). Bands today usually either try way, way, WAY too hard to sound like one particular band and genre, or they try infusing too much into something that quite frankly doesn’t need it. It seems in today’s world the more members you have the more artistic you must be- every member being a multi-instrumentalist and responsible for some obscure noise. Tell me why a band needs a floor tom player? Or why they need five members playing their own floor time at one point? I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen bands for the last song, bring out seven floor toms, members of other bands, and play the same consistent beat for an extended period of time. It’s not epic anymore, it’s not moving, and it’s certainly not unique. Stop, just stop.



Now, with all of that said, I’m not taking anything away from these bands, but with creativity comes new grounds to be broken. It’s not creative to keep building on something that stopped being built multiple times before. Believe it or not, there is a ceiling, and it is breakable, but if you keep using the same tools for something that requires a new tool and mode of thought, then find it and utilize the hell out of it. Cue up The Island of Misfit Toys and their upcoming record Bear Hair. The Island of Misfit Toys are different- very, very different. Consisting of 8 members, each of which being a multi-instrumentalist and responsible for their own noise, The Island of Misfit Toys have created a definitely familiar, but incredibly new, sound that is sure to become more prominent as time allows this band and fanbase to grow. Started by the now 19 year old Anthony Sanders, the group takes it’s influences from the scattered spectrum of Radiohead, Cap’n Jazz, Say Anything, Queen, and Violent Femmes. While that looks like grounds for what I said above to be put into place, I can’t, simply because this band infuses all of this without one allowing to show itself more above the others, and they are all subtle enough where you hardly notice it unless you look for it. I hear every one of their influences perfectly and they are all built upon, a hard feat to accomplish considering the span of genre we are talking about here.



Whether it be the acoustic driving itself like that of the Violent Femmes, Anthony’s almost uncanny vocal and attitude resemblance to that of Max Bemis from Say Anything, or the electric moments and chaos that brings about Cap’n Jazz, The Island of Misfit Toy have found their balance of taking what they love about their favorite bands, putting a twist on it, and punting it as far as they can to new areas. Their structure is something that will challenge you, their lyrics will make you think, relate, and respond, and live they will make you dance your ass off, while making you pay full attention. Bear Hair is an album you’ll keep coming back to again and again, finding something new with each listen. And that my friends, is what makes music great- challenges and finding something new about it every time.



Cleverly titling the record because of his moodiness (as a friend pointed out about Anthony “combing out his bear hair”), Sander’s lyrics and songwriting on Bear Hair are something that most people strive for in music. The band he has backing him are all ridiculously talented and know their place well enough to not try and outdo each other with so much going on. No one over shines the other members, and each member knows when to give a little bit more in their performance, and to hold back when the others are having their moment. Anthemic, ironic, sarcastic, hopeful, hopeless, melodic, quirky, intelligent, brash, honest, angry, and all together overtly happy, The Island of Misfit Toys have managed to sew, not slap together, a new sound that’s altogether beautiful and truly unique. I never found a point on the record where I was wanting to fast forward or skip the track; it’s too well thought out to do so, you’ll just be doing yourself an injustice. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m happy to tell you ground has been broken with Bear Hair; it’s about time someone takes the reigns and starts steering the sadly abused multimember bands to new heights. Out June 28th on Tandem Shop Records, you can preorder the record here, and you can check up on Anthony and gang at their Facebook page. - Sock Monkey Sound


"The Island of Misfit Toys, "Bear Hair""

“Bear Hair”
(Tandem Shop)
***1/2 (out of five)
It’s taken me a while to get around to the local, eight-piece pop-rockers’ debut (which dropped in June), but I’m glad I finally did. Sure, “Bear Hair” wears many hats—overlong, indie rock opener “Beginnings of a Beard” certainly doesn’t forecast the Why?-influenced hip-hop of “Work” or “Bear Hair 2”—and recalls musical predecessors like The Format (“Taffy Apple Lifestyle People”) and Okkervil River (“Knife-Throwing Academy”) a little strongly. Yet the infectious songwriting (the toe-tapping jangle of “Insulated Crate”; the frisky, theatrical “Hermit Crab”) and frontman Anthony Sanders’ words redeem the album’s choppiness. “I’m told be yourself; just don’t weird out anyone else,” he sings on “Mature,” and in one line speaks to everyone who’s stumbled along the transition from youth to adulthood.
In concert: 8 p.m. Aug. 9 at Schubas
—Matt Pais - Chicago RedEye


Discography

Bear Hair (album)

Photos

Bio

The Island of Misfit Toys started as a songwriting project for Anthony Sanders, and has since expanded to a full 8-piece band full of personality and talent. They've been around for a little over a year and have already headlined almost every major venue in Chicago, have opened for big name acts at Midwest Festivals Pygmalion and Middlewest Fest (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Caribou, Kid You'll Move Mountains), and went on a successful summer tour up and down the East Coast to promote their full-length, Bear Hair.

Bear Hair was recorded with Chris French of Joie De Vivre, and since its release in June, has been garnering some extremely positive press from AbsolutePunk, Chicago's RedEye (the newspaper everyone in Chicago does their crossword in), Windy City Rock, and just about everyone who's picked it up and given it a listen.

The Island is all about molding a future out of your past instead of letting your past manipulate your present. Every member has a story, and the melding of personalities and past-experiences has a led the band to act as a family would. At shows, they will make sure they are the band that people would want to talk to afterward, and it's all genuine. With this inseparability and deep bond with the music, The Island of Misfit Toys is truly going places and will never lose themselves in the process.

MUSIC VIDEO FOR "BEGINNINGS OF A BEARD":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9iJNTLdSVU