The post TOLEDO Break Down New Album How It Ends Track By Track: Exclusive appeared first on Consequence.
Track by Track is a recurring feature series offering artists a platform to take us through every song on their latest release. Today, TOLEDO’s Dan Álvarez de Toledo breaks down their debut album, How It Ends.
Indie rock duo TOLEDO have released their debut album, How It Ends, today (September 23rd). Draped in dreaminess and subdued sounds, the Brooklyn group’s initial effort is a statement introduction and a stellar piece of folk music that’s equal parts melancholic and whimsical.
How It Ends’ 12-track runtime is a warm and welcoming experience that draws inspiration from the likes of Gotye to David Bowie. But even with their touch of nostalgia throughout, Dan Álvarez de Toledo and Jordan Dunn-Pilz’s approach feels their own, distinct from other albums of the genre. The tones of wistfulness are amplified by the band’s process and personal anecdotes that went into crafting the tracks.
de Toledo tells Consequence that the difficulty in “L-Train” — one of the earlier tracks made for the album — came with crafting the perfect chorus. Once getting over the hump, TOLEDO’s final product is a buoyant-sounding track that pays homage to New York.
“It’s kind of our love letter to moving into NYC,” de Toledo says. “We wrote it in our first year here and it revolved around our adjustment to the city.”
de Toledo also remembers the “pretty intense and haunting” feeling surrounding “Flake.” The malaise-like instrumental only amplifies the haunting vocals that de Toledo wishes could have been bleaker. “It’s a song that still haunts us to this day cause it could be even more emo if we leaned into it,” he explains. “I guess we are too soft for distortion.”
The tenderness of How It Ends results in a heartfelt effort that evokes an array of emotions with each track. TOLEDO manages to create an album on a personal level beyond the individual experiences of the band’s members. Rather than feel like peering in from the outside, it invites you in on that cold fall night and asks you to sit by the fire to hear tales of sorrow and joy.
Stream How It Ends below while reading TOLEDO’s full Track by Track breakdown. You can pick up a physical copy of the LP here.
Okay, so, to start this off, we love Gotye and The Sundays, and this is our amalgamation of the two. We had this song kind of structured out for a few years and called it “Try Hard Song” when it was a bit more emo. Funny enough, this actually was the first song we demoed when we started recording the album, and it sounded so much different. As we broke into the “world” of the album, we revisited this tune to give it a bit of softer energy.
We ended up sampling lots or strings and Dan even picked up a violin from his partner’s family to try and add to the song! The song is about our relationship with each other, specifically Jordan’s relationship with Dan and his mom. It’s an emotional song for both of us because it feels like a love letter to TOLEDO.
This was one of those tunes that just kind of flows through you. We started writing this one pretty impulsively and had lots of crazy ideas of where to take it, but ended up just kind of sticking to our performance on it. We were in a cabin with our friend Melina Duterte (Jay Som), working on some tunes and she wanted to hop behind the engineering chair. We were staying in a shitty Airbnb that weirdly had a drum kit, and we felt like we HAD to use it, even though they were some of the worst drums ever. This one is kind of about understanding the mindset of Jordan’s father during his parents’ divorce. Emo, right?
This song started as a super chilled-out, half-time, Mac DeMarco ripoff but later evolved when we got really realllllly stoned. There was a point during our first cabin demo trip that we just joked, saying “What if we did this really stupid tempo that’s full-blown country?” and we just had to do it.
TOLEDO is all about poking fun at genres and playing with abstract genres in traditional forms. This was our attempt to do something different with tempos and also bring back some of the Fleetwood Mac energy we used to cherish. Also, Tara isn’t a real person, just a name that sounded good to replace the name of the REAL person (people?) it’s about.
“Keep It Down!”:
This was another early track for us that took shape during demoing. Dan is not a very good drummer, but he drums on the songs, and this one was super hard cause it had this weird fast section that we thought would be cool. I think the best part of this song, though, is that “nothing’s gonna change it now” canon in the bridge. We were really excited about that. This one’s about hating the sound of your own voice. Ironic since I’m talking in the third person…!
“How It Ends”:
Okay, now we are getting into it. This song was super fun cause we had a lot of help from our friend Melina in crafting the percussion elements, which are the highlight for us. We were going for a bit of a Bowie thing and our favorite part about this one was when Melina suggested we put rocks and spoons and stuff on the piano strings for the piano parts.
That was one of those “oh shit” moments for us when working with someone else because it’s something we would never have thought of. Love you, Melina! Also, this song is like super sad about parents getting divorced and stuff and what we take from those experiences into our new relationships but… spoon piano!
We really wanted this to be a big hit, but we also didn’t want it to be too pop, so this one was tough. We were in crunch day for TOLEDO, it was the last day we had left to do vocal stuff, and we had to bang out lyrics and vox for two singles in one day. Jordan was in one room writing lyrics for How It Ends, and Dan was in another room banging out “Climber.” In the end, we got it done, but it’s a cool memory of us saying, “Cool, we both can work in tandem if we have to.”
This was the first tune we finished writing and the first one we sent to the label big boys (Robbie and Craig, we love you). This song was also pretty intense and haunting for both of us. Jordan went off to sit in Dan’s car in the middle of the woods in upstate New York writing HEAVY lyrics, while Dan sat around manically planning how to piece the song structure together. It’s a song that still haunts us to this day cause it could be even more emo if we leaned into it. I guess we are too soft for distortion
The oldest song of the bunch, “L-Train” is an artifact of a lost album we recorded some years ago. This song was always tough for us to write and record because we never knew how to get the chorus right. We ended up just using the demo because everyone said it was good enough, and lo and behold it’s a hit!! This song was about a night on the town gone wrong. It’s kind of our love letter to moving into NYC. We wrote it in our first year here and it revolved around our adjustment to the city.
Our attempt at slowcore, this song was something we wanted to use as an experiment. We knew we always wanted to do the fast section at the end as an opener for the album, but when the time came, it always felt like a great thing to add at the end of “Leopard.” Fun fact, we both have matching tattoos on our bodies that say “Skin” as an ode to the song. We felt this song was a great example of what TOLEDO could be, just weird.
“What Happened to the Menorah?”:
Ever heard of Duster? Me neither. This was a one-take tune with Melina engineering us in a shitty Airbnb. At this point, we should get some sort of Airbnb sponsorship. We like to call this the “dark side” of the album. Things start to get gloomy and grim by the time we get here, and “Menorah” is a great palette cleanser. The title might seem like it ties to our Jewish roots, but it actually was a text we received from our friend Michael’s ex, who was wondering where her Menorah was. Weird vibes.
Long held as our favorite song on the album, this one was the most impulsive and the most fun. Starting as an angsty Dan tune, this quickly transformed into something very personal and angry, with the anger being directed inwards. Dan’s life had begun to unravel at home as we were writing the album and Jordan knew just the direction to take it in.
Secretly, some of our strongest songs are when Dan comes in with a small idea, and Jordan emphasizes non it and expands it. The same world as “Sunday Funday” in a sense that way. We knew we wanted to challenge ourselves with something fast-paced and this was the perfect chance for that. We recorded this with just a couple of microphones in a room and an awful first-act drum kit. That’s emo right?
“Fixing Up the Back Room”:
This is a song about understanding and forgiveness. It’s rare that we do any project and not end it on a high note of some kind. This song is about learning to understand the perspective of your family as they go through the struggles of raising children, sometimes on their own. This melody was something Dan had laying around for a while, and Jordan always wanted to do something with it.
It wasn’t until our first cabin trip that we actually ended up expanding on it, and Jordan made it a very personal experience for him. People told us always try and write the first and last song of the album, and this one came to us pretty quickly, and we knew it needed to close the 12-song emotional rollercoaster. The song (and album) ends with Melina laughing at a little synth loop she made — we thought this would be a great way to bring some light on any darkness present in the writing.
Is it weird that I have been writing in the third person for Dan and Jordan? Who am I even? Dan or Jordan? Or both? I don’t even know anymore.