Upon first listen to “Teeth” by Philly’s Tombo Crush, I was instantaneously enamored with their ethereal vocals and decided to play to their LP Ant Farm three times consecutively. Not because I was obligated to for this write-up, but because I absolutely had to in order to satiate my yearning to know the contents of singer-guitarist Mary Allen’s mind. The album beckons to listeners like a siren to sailor, but I proceeded happily without fear of the potential consequences.
Accompanied by lo-fi guitar riffs and steady percussion — whether the beats are synthetically produced or not, I can’t tell — Tombo Crush puts forth throaty vocals comparable to big names like Halsey and Marian Hill. But that is where the comparisons stop. Their music characteristically hosts much slower tempos with significantly fewer words. Despite this, they managed to capture my wholehearted attention and my mind never once wandered while listening to Ant Farm.
“Teeth” is carried by distorted guitars and eventually evolves into Allen fingerpicking on a ukulele. The track features one short verse of vocals, but this doesn’t act as a hindrance to the song whatsoever. In a time where many artists fill space with meaningless lyrics for fear of losing the attention of listeners, Crush fearlessly puts atmospheric instrumental arrangements in the front. Meanwhile, lyrics like “I like when you’re talking, don’t apologize / You look so good in pink, I wanna see that color all the time” don’t come off as serious in nature upon first listen, but your view might change by the third song on the album. “Gap” allows listeners raw insight into the Allen’s subconscious.
This track is an interlude that consists of subtle acoustic guitar notes paired with spoken word delivery in which Allen details their daily struggles with depression.”Today I was so sad my body hurt / My mental illness is like a leech / It’s latched onto me and is taking away all the good parts.” It’s another instance that defines Tombo Crush as an artist: Allen has no qualms with mixing a non-musical monologue bearing the contents of their mind on the LP.
“Pink” is another standout. Characterizes by heavy use of a vocal synthesizer, it addresses another important issue faced by young women: “I want to be desired without taking my shirt off.” The song is finished with the artful implementation of a vocal harmonizer which effectively grabs the attention of listeners while Crush finishes the song with piercing yet dreamy vocals.
Allen has been posting their music on the Tombo Crush Bandcamp since July of 2014. No song on the LP goes further than the two minute and twelve second running time of “Pink.” For me, this was the only aspect of the album that detracted from their talent. Some tracks like “Oder” featured a mere thirty-five second running time, which made the piece feel like it was an extended intro to a song rather than the entirety of a track. In these cases, Allen’s ideas could be more strongly developed and embellished, but hopefully without losing the immediacy that gives their music such honesty and integrity.
Tombo Crush plays The Madhouse on Thursday, October 20th with The Mellowells; more information on the show can be found at Facebook. Below, listen to Ant Farm.