Toro y Moi: What For?

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If I close my eyes, tighten my duvet around me a little more, and turn on Toro y Moi’s latest album What For? I can almost pretend its summer.

The brainchild of Chaz Bundick, Toro y Moi became one of ‘the’ bands of chillwave with his debut album ‘Causers of This’ (2010). Although chillwave was ultimately a flash in the pan micro genre that dominated the blogosphere between 2010-2011, Bundick has continued to adapt and grow as an artist.

Bundick’s sense of sonic adventure is one of his great strengths. It has given him a malleability that allows him to explore all avenues of alternative music within each of his albums which is admirable. In this regard, What For is no different, drawing on everything from psychedelic  pop to post acid rock, and a dash of disco.

With the help of a host of performers, including Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Rueben Nielson  and Real Estate/Ducktails’ Julian Lynch, Bundick is further honing his craft on this brightly sun-baked album. In true Toro y Moi fashion, the mish-mash of genres means that this album hard to pidgeonhole, but the overall effect is a charmingly pleasant 46 minutes that owes a lot to the likes of Big Star and Talking Heads.

This ten track album is more cohesive than Toro y Moi’s previous efforts and features some of Bundick’s catchiest songs to date.  Rich textures, a quirky approach to mixing, and carefully arranged instrumentation revealed through scuzzy fuzz are the highlights of this album. They are shown off best in the kaleidoscopic hook heavy Empty Nesters, prettily orchestral Ratcliff and Weezer-esque closing track Yeah Right.

Toro y Moi has always been about capturing a mood rather than minds, and depending on how you look at it; the problem of this album lies in its lyrical content.  Cynics would say they lack depth and emotional direction, but they could also be read as being purposely vague, left for the listener to imbue with their own meaning. Whatever the case, there’s nothing there encouraging me to pay attention. This is best exemplified in the albeit lovely Run Baby Run, which could have been ripped out of a Lennon/McCartney songbook when they were at their most nonsensical.

Overall, What For? is shimmering, nostalgic, hooky as hell, and six months too early. It is an amalgamation of some of Toro y Moi’s most idiosyncratic moves, but breaks enough new ground to be interesting, if a little calculated.

This article was originally published in Rip It Up magazine on June 29th 2015.

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