Side projects are always exciting, and this one really takes the cake. Toothless is the solo side project of London’s Ed Nash- the bassist of Bombay Bicycle Club. I know, the most popular side projects are done by lead singers or guitarists. But on The Pace of the Passing, Ed Nash makes a statement as a full-fledged composer and singer. There is breadth and depth to this album that has its roots as a passion project stemmed from a separate artistic feat that Nash deeply admires. The moniker Toothless comes from a drawing by influential punk artist Raymond Pettibon. In one of his drawings, there is a tiger biting the head of a boy. It is captioned, “Even toothless, she can still bite off a boy’s head.” This concept stuck with Nash- to still outperform and thrive even with the odds against you.

Several of the singles are inspired by the concepts in the 1977 film, The Power of Ten, by Charles and Ray Eames. The film concentrates on how the universe as whole and the sub-atomic world interact and the metaphorical ideas those provide. Even the album artwork for The Pace of the Passing is inspired by this- following people form a bird’s eye view as the camera slowly pans away, with just as much power to zoom in.

The same can be said for the compositions on this record. There are sweeping grandiose compositions coupled with layers and melodies that draw you in. It’s a rare occurrence where essentially every song on an album works as a standalone track, but also melds and flows so effortlessly when strung together as a whole piece of art.

The album opens with the lush ‘Charon’. The song begins with a picked guitar and soft, repetitious backing vocals. It then graciously opens up; it does not suddenly kick into gear like some flawed car restoration. It prominently, yet gently, reveals itself as if you are exiting thick woods to a sprawling meadow.

Then a sudden turn with the rhythmic and beat driven ‘Sisyphus’. On it he sings, “If you ever let go my friend/ We will have to start again/ We haven’t even got that far to go.” This fits with the Greek myth (Sisyphus is doomed for eternity to push a boulder up a mountain and upon reaching the top, have it fall back to the bottom, causing him to forever repeat this grueling process). In fitting with this grittiness, there is a driving fuzzed out bass that gets you pumped to help push that rock the rest of the way.

While this is a solo project, Nash also incorporated guest vocals that elevate the tracks they sing on. The first that sticks out is ‘Party For Two’, which features Liz Lawrence. There are fluttering keys and syncopated beats that recall a more polished early Animal Collective. It’s bouncy and flirtatious, even if the lyrical content is not. It’s one of those songs that sonically calls for you to dance, or drive, or explore, or just do something. There is also the more pensive ‘The Sirens’, featuring excellent band The Staves. Their vocal prowess just elevates this track that still would have still been strong without them.

It is difficult to not take time on each song. Each one deserves its own piece, because there is so much packed into each one. But, that would be boring for you, the reader, and I don’t want to take away from your experiences of discovering these songs yourself. There are so many layers of keys, guitars, vocals, electronics; yet somehow there is not an ounce of clutter. On The Pace of the Passing, everything has its place and comes together as one while its individual parts are still distinguishable. This is crafty, well composed, well produced indie pop that knows enough about alternative genres of music to utilize them cannily.

I’m usually a big advocate of listening to albums all the way through on a consistent basis, but with The Pace of the Passing, Nash as Toothless provides a unique experience where his music works equally as well as whole as it does as listening to the tracks at random. It’s not just attention to detail that accomplishes this. You can have the most articulated and polished album, but still fall flat. There is an authenticity that bleeds through this album. It is proper DIY- rugged and unique enough to know this is coming from a human, yet polished and carefully crafted enough to feel the pride and excitement in sharing a work of art for the public to claim. Toothless has something special with The Pace of the Passing and it is something that should not be ignored.