The journey Shiny Toy Guns have been on since the release of their debut album We Are Pilots in 2006 has not been a smooth one. That album – which was nominated for a Grammy Award and featured the brilliant single You Are The One – managed to fuse electronic and rock influences to create a seamless and refreshingly exciting brand of synth pop, back when everyone was busy not trying their hand at it.
However, after touring We Are Pilots relentlessly for years, relationships between the quartet became frayed and lead vocalist Carah Faye Charnow left the band. Despite her departure, Chad Petree (guitar), Jeremy Dawson (synths) and Mikey Martin (Drums) powered on with new vocalist Sisely Treasure for their sophomore album, Season Of Poison, in 2008.
While the change in direction saw the band pick up new admirers, it remained something of a disappointment. Five years on, and after many delays, Shiny Toy Guns have finally returned with their third album, III, with Charnow also back on lead vocals. The album not only sees the band return to their original line-up, but to the signature electronic pop sound that brought them recognition in the first place.
From the very off, it’s clear that Shiny Toy Guns are back on form, with opener Somewhere To Hide featuring a big, infectious chorus that harks back to the catchy You Are The One. The polished synths and Charnow’s delicate vocals make it irresistible and the perfect marker for the rest of the record. It’s followed by the mesmerising Waiting Alone, which continues the strong opening.
“Do you really never see me when you come home late at night/ I’m always waiting alone for you,” sings Charnow, on the album’s first single, over a busy concoction of sparse synths and beats. It’s a powerful and affecting song, one that seems all the more poignant following the end of Charnow’s marriage in 2012. Although the personal themes of love and loss certainly dominate III, there is also a feeling of new beginnings.
Wait For Me is almost eerie in its exploration of Charnow’s emotions, as she spends the first minute of the track quietly whispering to herself over sparse strings, before it breaks into plodding synths. As the song progresses, Charnow exchanges vocals with Petree, as she sings: “Take me now and climb to fly/ to a higher place where love won’t die.” It’s a moving and strangely addictive song, yet it remains uplifting throughout.
III may sound like it’s heavy going, but despite the often dark lyrics, the album feels like a positive progression from Shiny Toy Guns. Songs such as If I Lost You and Fading Listening fit in effortlessly with the album’s overarching themes and alluring atmosphere, while also being engrossing and shimmering electro pop tunes.
Then there are the moments where they really enjoy themselves, such as Speaking Japanese and The Sun. The former, in particular, is evidence of what Shiny Toy Guns can do when they focus on their rock influences, with the song almost reminiscent of Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells’ noise pop. It may be one of the few songs that sounds slightly at odds with the rest of the record, but it also provides a thrilling and welcome change.
Few could have expected Shiny Toy Guns to return at all, let alone with an album as accomplished as III, following their difficulties. However, it appears the band’s evolution since their debut has undoubtedly had a positive effect on their sound. While the album does tail off slightly towards the end, III is for the most part a solid comeback for Shiny Toy Guns. They may have made us wait, but it was worth it.