Starting Now — Toad the Wet Sprocket

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It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago marks the release of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s mainstream release, Fear, which dropped during a pocket of pop culture when college rock was an impactful headwind among the sea of grunge and boy bands.

Toad never set out to be a chart-topping mega band, remaining steadfastly under the radar since forming in 1986, but its unique and simplistic-yet-complicated baroque arrangements, laden with mysteriously introspective lyrics, craft a clever perspective into life.

These ingredients that have defined them for three decades remain consistent on Starting Now, Toad’s seventh studio release. Title track “Starting Now” is a textbook Toad classic, with awkwardly beautiful tuning, stair-stepped strumming and a story that defines the bittersweet affinity for nostalgia while declaring the future will be different — starting now.

Surrounding the nucleus of this record are songs that are complementary spokes and reflectors that craft a solid record — songs like “Game Day,” an autumn anthem of life’s withering leaves and the newness of optimism just around the corner. Or “Transient Whales,” a dreamy yet deeply personal retrospective. “The Best of Me,” which has a Black Crows “She Talks to Angels” vibe but with Michael McDonald singing backup, is a refreshing wildcard.

As the days get shorter and the sleeves get longer, there is no finer record to envelope the season and embrace every moment — starting now.

– Chris Rucker