Written By: Edward Ramjuse
The pop rock band with grittiness Boytoy are a trio of players from Brooklyn, who expertly craft catchy ass tunes. Female guitarists Saara Untracht-Oakner and Glenn Van Dyke strum while Matthew Gregory drums on the bands first full length release titled Grackle. Saara and Glenn formed Boytoy in 2013 after the break-up of their previous bands, You Can Be A Wesley and Beast Make Bomb respectively. They signed to Paper-Cup Music and were joined at the time by Dylan Ramsey (drums) for the recording of their self-titled EP which dropped in the spring of 2014.
The 11 tracks on Grackle were indeed succinct and were not able to overstay their welcome, taking a head-on approach to 1960s and 1970s garage-rock, contrasting gritty guitar distortion and kinetic drum beats with tuneful, sometimes one could feel how the surf pop vocals were harmonized. Saara, Glenn, and Matty don’t crank it to the max, but keep on trucking’ through the album, once in a while trying on different styles, like modern indie rock “Poison Breeder” and retro-soft rock “Wild One”. The aggressive nature of the fuzzed-up guitars is mostly tamed into shape to fit the verse, chorus, verse-structured compositions, but there’s still a dynamic intensity that roils most songs.
The upbeat lead single and album-opener “Postal” quickly pummeled with an amazing punchy drumbeat, cymbal crash, and rough, angular guitar riffs, but its rage-against-the-machine intentions were musically off-set by Saara’s sun-kissed, sing-song vocal delivery. She was deep into the demise of a relationship, admitting “You were right / We were wrong for each other…”, but the song radiated a pleasant, California palm tree vibe due to Saara’s upturned vocal phrasing. The California dreaming’ atmosphere continued on the under-2-minute “Pulp”. Gritty guitar riffs contrasted with the supple guitar line and the limber. The romping drum beats blended well with the vocal vibes that Saara provided. The result was melody, sounding like a more laid-back Kim Shattuck of The Muffs, cooing through lovely “Oohs” and then plaintively deploring that “It’s no fun / when all you do is run.”
On the closer “Can’t Get It” Glenn and Saara alternate vocal lined at the start of this final track in the album, Glenn sung in a subdued, but rich tone while Saara exclaimed potently on the chorus the choice admission “How can I miss you? / I never had you.” The Sporadic 1960s Girl Group “Ah-oohs” dotted the song while a spot of cowbell was added… well, because there’s always room for more cowbells. The lyrical content of album-ender “Can’t Get It”, like many of Grackle’s tracks, was more about missed chances and lost opportunities, but Boytoy connected for the most part with its sincere and appealing perspective on retro rock and roll with a modern, melodic edge. But gone were the smooth reverb and dreamy vocals, traded for scratchier riffs and Kim Deal–esque vocals instead. Though it was not as cool of a listen as their older stuff, but I think the band stepped in a new-ish direction and just need to be given a second to catch their balance.