“Been feeling different/Feeling distant/Feeling nothing,” croons Samuelito Cruz on “Concentrator,” a track from TONER’s new, self-titled collection of melancholy magic. TONER, the LP, is bummer punk straight from the bedroom, where Cruz has (seemingly) been holed up for a while now, spinning his pure, gloomy gold.
TONER offers hints at Cruz’s other band, Bay Area’s Happy Diving; specifically, the sporadic moments of heaviness and his similar penchant for grand, driving melody. With his solo project, though, Cruz harvests feelings of solitude and sadness, crafting familiar, honest pop music that soothes the achey soul. Sometimes, these feelings manifest into the actual music — the deep, pounding bass of “Head Sick” throbs like an actual headache — but for the most part, TONER’s vibe is deceivingly upbeat, maintaining an air of west coast cool. Cruz’s voice may be distant and echoey throughout, but his relatability couldn’t be more near.
TONER’s sentiments are simple, but to call it breakup music would be highly diminishing. “I’m all alone, drunk in my room, thinking about it,” Cruz admits on “Bedroom Floor.” The perfect pop of “High & Dry” finds him impatient, isolated from the world: “I don’t drink much anymore/I sleep all day, I’m such a bore.” It’s the point in a breakup where the “breaking up” itself is over, and rarely does it find such a fitting soundtrack. TONER is the flat, desolate in between phase: the initial sting of loss is gone, but you don’t feel like yourself, and you still aren’t happy.
TONER is out now via Don’t Live Like Me Records/ Floorplan Records/ Suspended Soul/ Brothers Absurd Records.