If Toledo, Ohio makes you think of Spain, Jamie Farr and/or That Place South of Ann Arbor, then you need to add another thought to your list: Cool Music Town. At any given time at least a handful of great bands and artists are rocking the Glass City, and acts such as the AntiVillains make a two-hour jaunt from the Fort seem like a pretty good time investment, after all.
The AntiVillains’ stock in trade throughout their new CD, So Much for Romance, is ethereal, controlled, harmony-laden indie music that recalls everything from the New Pornographers to the Sundays to 60s pop. But there’s a gravitas within these songs that those comparisons can’t do justice to. Much of the immediacy and emotional heft on the bulk of these songs comes from singer/guitarist Sarah Cohen’s striking, unaffected vocals. While she rarely strains, her voice has an undeniably magnetic appeal — it’s the real deal, as they say.
The reverb-drenched “Let’s Be Honest” pairs Sarah’s vocals with sparse, languid instrumentation, and when her brother Benjamin Cohen’s subtle, low harmonies come in alongside twangy guitars the potential of this band is fully realized. Or so you think. Benjamin takes the vocal helm for the more ramped-up “Don’t Get Excited,” which recalls a more restrained Dan Bejar/New Porns. By the time the shimmering guitars give way to the pounding verses and, finally, to the epic chorus, you’re hooked. And, somehow, it keeps building. Definitely an album highlight, absolutely a valid reason to be excited about this band. The slinky, spooky “Warning” wouldn’t sound out of place on a late-model Radiohead album, while the smoky title track purrs along and, frankly, makes one vaguely crave a tall Mimosa. So Much for Romance waltzes to an end as gracefully as it starts, with Sarah’s crystalline vocals skating atop a beautifully constructed, well-recorded tune.
You may not be familiar with the city, but get familiar with So Much for Romance and you’ll definitely find something to like about Toledo.
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