I could start by mentioning how it’s somewhat surprising that Houston has an indie scene capable of breeding a band such as the Tontons. Or maybe I could try a witty joke about the possible Star Wars reference in the band name. Luckily, these guys already shed some light on their hometown scene for us; and you won’t have to cringe at my efforts to be funny because my only intention here is to convey the uniqueness and talent of this genre-busting group.
Since the release of their Sea and Stars EP in 2008, this group has maintained a sound that could be defined as blues-infused indie rock. Frontwoman Asli Omar is always at the forefront of this mixture, howling, lamenting and swaggering up and down an incredible range of vocal and emotional dynamics. While comparisons don’t necessarily do her charisma justice, the torment she expresses on Pony touches on the style of the late Amy Winehouse, while tracks like the single Veida and rock ‘n’ roller Bones 1 demonstrate her ability to revel in bombast. Omar’s command of both ends of the spectrum is impressive, but her most chilling performance comes on the subtle and loungey So Tired, where our narrator begs to see her love interest, and herself, like they once did. It’s one of the many sentiments on the album that suggests that many stories of love end in a way we refuse to imagine at the beginning.
As talented as she is though, Omar cannot be given all the credit. The level of charm and diversity on this album is only attainable if the rest of the cast has the proper skills and finesse. Bassist Tom Nguyan and drummer Justin Martinez constitute a rhythm section that can both provide a perfect R&B/soul bed for a melody (Pony, Bones 2), or spring into action with garage rock intensity (Veida, Bones 1.) Meanwhile, guitarist Adam Martinez works his magic by moving between moments of shimmering atmospherics, bluesy thrashing and even some folk-type strums with ease. There is no one Makeout King here. It’s more of a ’70s key party, where various musical interests and styles come together to create a unique, fun and often heart-wrenchingly soulful experience.