The solo effort of Joey Todd (member of the band Mouthbreather), Cardboard Dream Bubble encapsulates the weirdness that lurks in the DIY scene but so rarely comes up in the mainstream. It’s actually quite the challenge to put into words what genre best describes the album: “experimental” is true enough but at the same time I feel it's somewhat misleading. There are lots of sounds at play here, most of them acoustic, and while they are largely utilized in a traditional way the end result is something fun and unusual.
With Cardboard Dream Bubble Todd has moved far away from Mouthbreather's more aggressive style. It's a lot softer and more upbeat, if not a little more difficult to decipher. The opener “Change Song #1” sounds like a campfire sing-along carried with a simple rhythm and adorned with snaps. It's in the lyrics where Todd makes his mark, sewing together a stream of consciousness-style story that at times makes no logical sense but at others cuts clear to the bone and is instantly relatable. Here Todd starts by describing how he built a song and is waiting to “find someone to sing along” and ends with an exploration of fear and morality. The tone of the song never changes. It's bouncy throughout and despite the shift in focus in the second half Todd remains in good spirits as he sings.
The bulk of the album combines lighthearted music with disjointed yet engaging images to great effect. However, there are a few instances when Todd chooses to tackle darker sounds. “OK Stupid” is dominated by a scuzzy electric guitar but reeled back into the realm of blues with a recurring harmonica. “Annoying” starts with an unintelligible spoken word bit tinged with static and other distortion. The song proper revolves around an ominous stalking bass line that suddenly picks up pace midway through. Vocals return, again unintelligible (except for a “what?” repeated with urgency) but being delivered at a breakneck pace, making the song feel like it’s closing in on you. In “6 Months” Todd sings with a palpable sense of trepidation as he questions the permanence of everyone and everything around him (“How long do you think I have?” is repeated throughout the track), and as he approaches shouting you can hear him nail the strumming that much harder.
Though a separate entity from Mouthbreather, Cardboard Dream Bubble does overlap with the band at one point. “Home Out West” features band mate Leo Brill on vocals, and while he doesn't go to the extremes of Mouthbreather on his performance the lyrics do feature the same balance of angst and ease, flowing with the rest of the album without difficulty.
It's an odd journey, though one worth taking for fans of the road less traveled. If you're looking for something less concrete that you can get lost in, give Cardboard Dream Bubble a try.
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