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The Tontons Make-Out King and Other Love Stories review

“Make-Out King and Other Love Stories” is the sophomore album from Texan four-piece The Tontons, following a couple of developmental EPs and their self-titled debut in 2009. Formed in 2007, they became a local hit in their hometown, and in recent months they have steadily begun to gain the attention and accolades of the wider music world and media. Their self-proclaimed genre is of indie rock, but there are a number of tracks with distinct R&B influence and Alsi Omar’s effortless vocals even add jazz to the mix.
The first thing I noticed about The Tontons sound, and the sound of their album, was that I wasn’t immediately jumping to comparisons with other bands. That was refreshing, something of a rarity these days. A couple of times I thought I could put my finger on it, hearing bits of Fleetwood Mac and the Arctic Monkeys in the first track, “Magic Hour,” but with the great tempo change 2/3s through the track, I decided I may just enjoy what the Houston natives had to show.

Musically and rhythmically, the songs are well-crafted, though I wouldn’t say they are catchy, and the melodic phrases of some tracks are repetitive and somewhat unadventurous in places. The bassist, Tom Nyugen, underlines the soulful essence of the group, and is complemented by the raw, often folksy quality of Adam Martinez’s guitar. The quartet is completed by Justin Martinez on drums.
The music is mainly atmospheric, I found myself drifting to other thoughts and tasks, while it made for very enjoyable background music. I think this is down to a couple of things. Firstly, Omar, though powerful and moody, slides breathily through most tracks, neither grabbing for your attention nor fading from it. Secondly, lyrically speaking, it’s not the most arresting of albums. That’s not to say they are not well-written songs, but it takes a couple of listens and some concentration to hear the cleverer nuances of the verse, and to realise how emotional the album actually is.
The tracks flow together well, switching up the styles without overwhelming the listener. For me, the high points of the album came in the form of my favourite track, the emotionally-charged “Pony”, the slavishly upbeat “Bones 1” and the pleading but powerful “Lonely.” There are no obvious intentional highlights of the album, but the more I listened the more I realised each track has its own brilliance.
While I was unconvinced by the initial listen, by the end of the album The Tontons had truly grown on me, and a number of tracks have definitely made it onto my personal playlist. That being the main mark of a decent album, I think it’s fair to say I’m fairly impressed by the band. It may take time but it will be interesting to see where they will go in the next couple of years.