Rewind to July 2016. Alex Toth, the man behind the music of Tōth, was stuck in a fourth floor Brooklyn apartment with crutches and a cast, nursing, in his own words, “a broken foot and a broken heart”. It was there that he began crafting the tracks would become his debut solo album, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary.
Known as one half of the art-pop duo, Rubblebucket, it was the end of his eleven year relationship with his band-mate, Kalmia Traver, following a particularly different period of mental and physical health issues, that inspired much of the record. Worry not though fans of Rubblebucket, the pair continue as a creative duo, and released an album just last year.
Tōth recently previewed what the world can expect from Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary, in the shape of a new track, Song To Make You Fall In Love With Me. Alex has suggested it’s a track about how he increasingly finds, “certain tendencies of being a human absurd, hilarious and psychedelic”, the example here being when he found himself, “wanting to write a song to make someone—a specific someone— fall in love with me. All coming from that deeply melancholic post break-up space – the space where it feels like you need love or you’ll just fall right apart.” Musically, the track is a delightfully textured recording, recalling the likes of Here We Go Magic, it builds around a hypnotic, repeated guitar phrase, twinkling synth interludes and Alex’s gentle, breathy vocal delivery.
Elsewhere on the record, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary, we see a variety of sides to Tōth songwriting; his training as a jazz trumpeter comes out on the smoky outro to No Reason, while the orchestral grandeur of When I Awoke, nods to Fleet Foxes, and Sentientiment has the raw angst of The Antlers. A record that shows ambition and beauty in equal measures, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary is an album about moving forward with your life, and musically it does just the same with Alex’s songwriting. From a place of solitude Alex’s songwriting has bloomed, and perhaps more than ever this is feels like Alex discovering who he is, both as a songwriter, and perhaps even more so as a human being.
Today Tōth has put together a mixtape of the music that inspired Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary, featuring the likes of Arthur Russell, Moses Sumney and his Rubblebucket band-mate, Kalbells.
1. Arthur Russell – Platform On The Ocean
Arthur Russell is one of my biggest influences in every aspects of making music. He’s a multi-instrumentalist singer folk musician and cellist disco composer! I have a stick and poke tattoo of his initials on my arm. Everything he makes feels so pure and honest, like it had to come out of him, not like he decided to make it. That’s how I want my music to be. And my favorite of my own work arrives to me in that way. This song is one I listen to a lot when I’m on tour, night-driving in the van around the United States. It’s very meditative. Especially good for Midwest driving, where Arthur is from.
2. Sun Kil Moon – I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love
I discovered Sun Kil Moon through his 2014 record Benji. This record, and in particular the song “Carissa” opened up my concept of what a song could be. Of lyrics. The funny almost diary-entry-like details. It affected my approach to writing. This song “I can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love” hits extra hard. The beautiful subtle guitar polyrhythm and harmony vamping through the whole song. And the contrast between Sun Kil’s sardonic vibe and the vulnerability of confessing his need for his mother’s love is so striking.
3. Kalbells – Bodyriders
Kal is my “ex”. But really she’s just one of my best lifelong friends and collaborators. The way she thinks about and approaches life; and the way she makes music has had a bigger influence on me than maybe any other source. This song is a cosmic exploration of what it means to share our bodies with other bodies.
4. Moses Sumney – Man On The Moon
I don’t really have words for what this song does to me. The first time I heard it it immediately became a part of my life. Moses’ falsetto is otherworldly and I love how home-made the recording sounds. It’s one of the few songs I learned to play on guitar and have covered it as Tōth before. It fits pretty seamlessly with the vibe of my music.
5. Lee Morgan – Sidewinder
When I was 15 I had a concern that trumpet was maybe a lame instrument and maybe I should learn guitar. This song evaporated that concern and made me think “okay, I REALLY want to play trumpet like that…” It was a major gateway to jazz for me and paved the way for a huge identify shift from very painful adolescence into “I’m a jazz musician and poet.”
Practice Magic And Seek Professional Help When Necessary is out May 10th. Click HERE for more information on Tōth.