steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

At The Spine

"The Curriculum is Never Neutral" CD

Global Seepej Records

Genres: indie rock, indie pop

Global Seepej
1907 11th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102

May 24 - 30 2004

At The Spine is the brainchild of Mike Toschi, a Seattle-based songwriter with an uncanny knack for creating tight, catchy indie rock tunes. One of his music's best elements is its youthful, Quasi-esque vocals, which add a distinct accessibility to the songs. The Curriculum is Never Neutral, released on the Global Seepej label, is Toschi's latest release, and it is a fine pop artifact with strong Sparklehorse and Built To Spill influences - though with more of a rock slant.

This disc's best moments are those when Toschi sticks to a poppish, quirky style. His more fiery numbers aren't nearly as accessible, nor as successful. Take "Twist Wrapped" and "Dark Days" - two of the best tracks on this disc. They are heavenly, Built To Spill-esque tunes, filled with subtle, effective hooks and a lush, almost cute attitude. The latter is a pure gem; it lays soft vocals over a wonderful acoustic guitar background. However, there are also a number of less incredible songs. "Green and Blue" is bland and becomes uninteresting after multiple listens, and the energy of "Crystal Clear" is unmelodic and far from enthralling. However, catchy tunes like "Second Hand" and the Quasi-like "Cutter" make up for the more melodically deficient songs.

The Curriculum is Never Neutral is a solid outing for Toschi's At The Spine project - if you can look past the few duds, you'll discover a really successful batch of pop tunes on this disc.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 13 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2003]