Review: With You and Me and Everything, Tōth Finds Healing Through Balance

The album is a diaristic account of the way in which the artistic process can help one move through emotional blocks.

Tōth, You and Me and Everything
Photo: Amanda Picotte

Alex Toth’s melancholic 2019 debut, Practice Magic & Seek Professional Help When Necessary, found the Brooklyn singer and multi-instrumentalist navigating grief following his separation from Rubblebucket bandmate and romantic partner Kalmia Traver. If that was Toth’s breakup album, then You and Me and Everything is a chronicle of his recovery. “You should meet yourself to begin what we call healing,” he moans on the album’s opening track, “Habit Creature,” a dreamy and oblique how-to on processing pain.

Songs like “Guitars Are Better Than Synthesizers for Writing Through Hard Times” form a playfully diaristic account of the way in which the artistic process can help one move through emotional blocks. On “I Might Be,” Toth mistakes displaced infatuation with love (“I might be addicted to you/But is that love?”), the song’s bouncy synth flourishes hearkening back to his days with Rubblebucket, and the piano-driven “Thirsty,” which employs an ebullient pop template reminiscent of early Grizzly Bear, mines the theme of insatiability and explores how an “existential appetite” is difficult to quell. A big-picture zoom-out on romance, heartbreak, and forgiveness, “Daffadowndilly” highlights one of Toth’s more heartfelt vocals and features some of his most laconically poetic lyrics: “Thank you for making everything totally meaninglessness/Beautiful narcissist/I, too, am just a daffodil.”

The meandering storyline of “Turnaround (Cocaine Song)” is particularly engaging, the spacious phrasing of the chorus starkly contrasted with the quirkily packed verses as Toth recounts snorting cocaine in a bar at sunrise, passing out during a relative’s funeral, presumably overdosing, and waking up in the ground where he “decomposed into a bunch of flowers.” Lyrically, “Angie” is the album’s only egregious misstep, what with its uncharacteristically puerile, though perhaps satirical, rhymes: “We traveled in the bus/To Minneapolis/That night I wanted to die/You told about me about an open sky.”

The album’s closer, “The Driving,” conveys how the past can get in the way of our engaging with the present: “My heart’s still broken/And I let the pain inside do the driving,” Toth admits, a tapestry of horns richly complementing his sanguine yet wistful vocals. Throughout You and Me and Everything, he flirts—mostly successfully—with psychedelic, art-rock, and experimental folk styles, as well as an often-idiosyncratic use of drum machines, samples, and other slightly discordant embellishments. The songs here find him striving to find balance between accessibility and iconoclasm, the cerebral and the visceral, and his past and present.

 Label: Northern Spy  Release Date: April 30, 2021  Buy: Amazon

John Amen

John Amen is the author of five collections of poetry, including Illusion of an Overwhelm (NYQ Books), a finalist for the 2018 Brockman-Campbell Award and the Dana Award. His music, literary, and film reviews appear in such publications as No Depression, The Line of Best Fit, Beats Per Minute, and Pop Matters. He founded and is managing editor of Pedestal Magazine.

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