On my love for Twink and other obscure toy piano music.

My First Toy Piano

The first toy piano I ever had.

Telling people you’re into toy piano music is a bit like telling them you’re into The Elephant Show. It tends to draw one of two reactions:

1) What the hell is that?

2) What are you, five?

Admittedly, sometimes my tastes are not so different than things a five year old would find appealing. The kind of toy piano music I’m referring to, however, isn’t exactly meant for children, despite being created with their toys.

Toy pianos are often used as a whimsical element in pop songs and the occasional live performance by bands who are awesome enough to go there, like that time The Cure used one in their MTV Unplugged performance. And then there are artists like Twink who love the sound of toy pianos so much they feature it in all their songs.

These are a few of my favorite toy piano albums, and if you’ve got Spotify you can listen along with the included links:

Itsy Bits & Bubbles

Twink is the one-man toy piano band of Mike Langlie who once bought a toy piano at a thrift store and liked the way it sounded so much that he started collecting other toy pianos and making experimental, insanely cool music with them that never fails to make me feel deliriously happy.

Twink - Itsy Bits and Bubbles

Twink’s latest album Itsy Bits & Bubbles is full of so much awesome, I can’t possibly do it justice by attempting to describe it but I’ll try anyway. It’s like a toy piano mated with a Nintendo in the 1980s. It’s a melodic, upbeat, dance-able fusion of toy piano and circuit-bent electronics that randomly mixes in familiar old toy noises. A Speak & Spell-infused toy piano cover of the Beverly Hills Cop theme? Yep, you’ll find it on this album.

[Listen on Spotify: Twink - Itsy Bits & Bubbles]

The Art of the Toy Piano

Margaret Leng Tan is a classical musician and professional toy pianist who also bought her first toy piano at a thrift store and went on to record several toy piano albums. My favorite of hers is The Art of the Toy Piano which is full of hauntingly beautiful melodies that include toy piano renditions of classical music and pop songs. Its second track is a tinny, off-kilter toy piano cover of Eleanor Rigby that I just fell in love with.

The Art of the Toy Piano

[Listen on Spotify: Margaret Leng Tan - The Art of the Toy Piano]

Mesmers

Mesmers is an experimental album by Phyllis Chen that combines the sounds of toy pianos, music boxes and clanging bowls. It’s a dreamy, bizarre and often purposely out-of-tune collection of melodies that sounds like what might have been playing in Alice’s head as she tumbled down the rabbit hole. I absolutely love it.

Phyllis Chen - Mesmers

[Listen on Spotify: Mesmers - Phyllis Chen]

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