Just when you thought Hooded Fang were your new favourite twee-pop darlings, they’ve switched gears and smacked the bubble gum right out of your mouth. Though their recent debut, Album, was all shimmering glockenspiels and innocuous “doot doot doos,” on Tosta Mista (out now via Daps) the local collective shed the Pollyanna-ish approach for surfy, soda shoppe–era garage rock sure to razz your berries.
Lead vocalist/head songwriter Daniel Lee still has a knack for penning earworm melodies, but now it sounds like he’s simultaneously had his heart shattered and discovered his parents’ Jukebox Hits of the ’50s and ’60s compilation album. Case in point: “Clap” (streaming right), which fuses twangy Dick Dale–esque guitar work with reverby jangle-pop verses, sees Lee, in his familiar too-sleepy-to-hit-the-high-notes baritone, sing about a two-faced performer who acts like an “icy ho” when she disrobes. “Brahma” comes off like an amped-up version of Jerry Butler’s “Find Another Girl,” its retro milkshake bar vibe undercut by cantankerous lyrics (“Companionship is like an illness”), while “Den of Love” is the band’s weepy take on “Earth Angel,” augmented with harmony-laden, wall-of-sound production. Interspersed throughout the album are a series of hypnotic surf ‘n’ burn instrumentals (“Big Blue i, ii, & iii”) that sound like they’ve come straight out of a Tarantino flick.
If Lee seems like he’s in the doldrums, it’s because he probably is: he and co-songwriter April Aliermo recently cut the gas on their five-year relationship. Tosta Mista, then, can be viewed as part of the coping process: bruised-heart-on-sleeve lyrics are counterbalanced by the escapist, sun-baked soundtrack to dancing the twist at the sock hop and getting backseat bingo at the drive-in. They heal, you dance, and the Fang expand their palette. Everybody wins.