The Lineup


Chapel Hill, N.C.

Chapel Hill folk-rock outfit Toddlers are a remarkably easy band to like. This has a lot to do with the heartbreaking melodies at the core of singer Nathan Toben’s moody late-night odes, but their immediate accessibility also has something to do with the obvious hallmarks of their sounds. The strung-out expanses contained within their propulsive rock owe a considerable debt to Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Toben’s dark, velvety pipes suggest the rich and affected warble of Roy Orbison. The fuzzy distortion that fills the gaps references the nervy slacker rock of Pavement and the like. Rock generalists won’t have to expend much effort to find satisfaction in The Toddlers’ aesthetic, but there’s more going on than what immediately catches your ear.

The band began in 2008 when Toben shared the luxurious songs he was writing with drummer Noah Dehmer. For a while, they played gigs around town as a duo, gradually figuring out that the songs needed to be bigger. Erin Sale joined on to play keyboards, and Ellis Anderson became the band’s bassist. Since, the band has worked in relative obscurity, releasing scant recordings, accessible only through their frequent performances.

But this year promises to change all that: There’s a debut LP due in the fall, and on Record Store Day, the band will release a 7-inch with the song “You Can Keep The Wheels.” Produced by local rocker Wesley Wolfe, the track finds The Toddlers wholly in their element. A march of drums, bass and prickly guitar powers the journeyman ballad as Toben waxes wryly about gender roles on the range before concluding, “Honey, a man has got to sing.” Abrasively distorted guitar takes hold after the first verse along with spacey synthesizer. It’s catchy, but corrosive. In short, this ain’t your daddy’s desert rock. —Jordan Lawrence