The journey that musical talents Tim Toz and Joy Tolbert have taken to arrive at this place, teaming under the banner TNT Music, shares many similarities. Their formative musical education during the 1980’s and their influences give them a solid fundamental base to work from that runs along similar lines. They are both veterans of the NYC indie music scene, Tolbert in particular, thanks to her tenure in an eighties all-girl named Starchild and those years of experience cast a productive shadow over their work on this latest single. The most recent release from their collaborative efforts, “Pieces”, will strike many listeners as being familiar, in the best possible ways, but TNT Music has their own unique approach utilizing familiar genre elements in personal and often highly surprising ways.
An indication of their capacity for surprise comes in the song’s first seconds. It almost seems to promise a progressively flavored rock song with its upper register keyboards mixed with multi-tracked harmony vocals that soon transforms into some ultra slick lead guitar work. However, just as listeners might expect the initial guitar workout to slow into an epic crawl, the electrified elements follow away. Acoustic guitar enters and lays down a solid rhythm. Tolbert’s bluesy voice comes in soon after and keeps things low-key in the song’s opening verse. There are a lot of interesting changes in the song, some predictable in the best possible ways, some pleasantly jarring, but the song’s construction is clear enough for listeners to hear its coherence and chart the song’s progress from its opening to close.
Tolbert’s vocal, likewise, gives listeners a clear path to follow. Her performance makes a tremendous amount of emotional sense, building like the song does from a relatively low-key beginning that mounts and mounts to a fiery emotive crescendo. There’s hints of rustic country vocals, moments of bluesy brilliance, and flashes of outright rock front-woman coming through the mix and Tolbert never sounds uncomfortable with even a second of it. She sings with genuine inspiration rather than calculation. Her towering achievement here gives “Pieces” much of its life – without her contribution, this would still be a rousing instrumental, but not the blood and guts testimony it is in this form.
The lyrical content revitalizes a number of tropes familiar to songs with this subject matter, but Tolbert’s words are resolutely focused on conveying a personal experience without bogging the listener down with obscure particulars about the singer’s life and situation. This allows her audience to possibly relate to her plight while still keep things open-ended enough that they aren’t beholden to her biography. “Pieces” is an impressive achievement from its first minute onward and never feels empty or overly premeditated. Tim Toz and Joy Tolbert are completely simpatico. These are two artists coming from the same place with the same need for self expression and they fully see their impulses through on their latest single.