toddle: Dawn Praise the World

I’d seen the comparisons between toddle and the Breeders, but when the Tabuchi Hisako-led project first debuted, I focused more on how it related to bloodthirsty butchers and Number Girl. Now that toddle has a second album under its belt, it’s easier to evaluate the group on its own terms. And toddle sounds like … the Breeders.

The butchers’ Yoshimura Hideki — who is also now married to Tabuchi — once again serves as producer, and toddle’s second album, Dawn Praise the World, has a beefier, cleaner sound. Studio technology is a wonderful thing, and the heavy processing on Tabuchi voice makes me question how much she’s improved as a singer.

At the same time, it’s difficult to find much fault with the sweetness of her overdubbed harmonies. They just sound so nice! They also figure very prominently on the butchers’ latest album, Guitarist wo Korosanaide, where they provide a sharp contrast to Yoshimura’s monotone wail.

On the band’s debut, I dedicate D chord, it seemed Yoshimura didn’t want to mask the shortcomings of Tabuchi’s singing, putting her forward without adding much to distract from the performance. She sounded very green back then.

Now she sounds like she’s been singing for a long time. Many of the tracks — "Sack Dress", "Colonnade", "In a Balloon" — actually find her doubling her vocals before splitting into harmonies. It’s a nice effect, especially with the bustle of the band masking it.

toddle once again offers a dual-guitar attack, where rhythm and lead play off each other. The guitar work made up for any lack of strength in the vocals the last time, but here, the guitars feel much more integrated into the overall sound.

The rhythm section has also gotten tighter with drummer Yasuoka Hideki locking into what’s happening in the foreground. He does a great job driving the songs.

The entire band, in fact, sounds more comfortable with each other — they push each other to play more forward. What results is a pleasing album, full of force but tempered with simple melodies.

Dawn Praise the World is a noticeably stronger album than its predecessor. The studio polish may greatly contribute to that perception, but it’s built upon the inherent abilities of the band itself. The next album may be stronger still.