Album Review: Toh Kay’s Streetlight Lullabies
Tomas Kalnoky always had a distaste for being labeled a one genre artist. In fact, during his AP Radio show interview Kalnoky mentioned that he does not consider his main project (Streetlight Manifesto), a ska band. His solo work, released by his musical alter ego, showed us that he will not be boxed to only one specific genre.
Under the pseudonym Toh Kay, Kalnoky released his first solo project, Streetlight Lullabies, in late 2011. The album, as one could possibly infer from the title, is a cover album. More so, it is a self-covered album, as it covered previous work Kalnoky has performed during his time in Streetlight Manifesto, Bandits of the Acoustic Revolution, and Catch-22. However, Kalnoky took twist to covering his songs. Instead of loud, raspy vocals with blaring woodwind/brass sections, Kalnoky armed himself with only a 6-string classical guitar and his surprisingly soft, beautiful voice.
In short, the songs in were covered in a very folky manner. Most songs were played with very simple chord progressions, which are mostly comprised of open guitar chords. However, that is where the simplicity ended. Despite the simple chord progressions, Kalnoky added numerous guitar playing elements to his simple progressions, like his quick arpeggiated picking style to name one.
The album consists of 10 songs, which date being written during Kalnoky’s Catch-22 days, to his more recent musical endeavors in Streetlight Manifesto. Each song holds its own individually, but the hallmarks of Streetlight Lullabies are those that originate from Streetlight Manifesto. The powerful one liners and mood of the songs like in “A Better Place, A Better Time,” are strongly emphasized with the slower and softer play style. Structurally speaking, the moods of the songs correspond very well with the softer play style of the album. Kalnoky has always hit on hard concepts within his music such as suicide, war, and personal nihilism. However, with Streetlight Manifesto’s iconic play style, these concepts were often hidden under fast, jazzy overtones. But with the play style in Streetlight Lullabies, these concepts were clearly vocalized, which ultimately made some of the songs in the album extremely emotional, and at times difficult to listen through.
On that note, comparing these songs to their originals is like comparing apples to oranges. While they are lyrically the same, they are played completely different from one another, and stylistically differ greatly from their originals. Therefore, the tracks of Streetlight Lullabies should be treated differently than that their original predecessors.
If you’re a Streetlight Manifesto fan or just looking to get into a new style of music, this album is defiantly worth a listen. As for Streetlight fans, the next piece of original work is going to have to wait, but given Kalnoky’s track record, the wait will be worth it.