Thursday, January 31, 2013

Album Review: Toro Y Moi - "Anything in Return"

In a world where more and more musicians are heavily tapping into the electronic side of the music scene, Chaz Bundick, better known as Toro Y Moi, has been able to consistently set himself apart and rise above.

Born in South Carolina, Bundick spent the majority of his formative years paying in indie and punk bands before creating Toro Y Moi in 2001 to further his musical exploration. Aside from proving to be a prolific musician, Bundick has proven himself to be a diverse one as well. I don't want to compare the two artists, because they greatly differ for many others reasons, but James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) often comes to mind largely because of his diverse musical upbringing having once played in punk bands prior to the formation of LCD Soundsystem. I think what distinguishes great artists is their diversity, which could refer to their ability to incorporate a variety of sounds or ability to play multiple instruments, but Bundick has the ability to do both.

With heavy interest in his solo career, Bundick began incorporating electronics into his work opening up a wider range of influences such as: 80's R&B, Hip Hop and "Brian Wilson's Pop." As these influences started to become more apparent within his work, 2009 helped him gain notoriety from blogs across the web praising his personalized "chillwave sound," strongly heard on his debut album Causers of Time. The following year, Toro Y Moi returned with a broader sound relying less on drum machines and more of the "funky psych-pop" featured on Underneath the Pine.

After relocating from South Carolina to Berkley, Toro Y Moi has returned with his third full-length LP Anything in Return. Away from friends and family, the album touches on the topic of (Bundick) trying to become a better person with the exception of two songs, said to be his version of "Pop Songs." The first one, "So Many Details," is one of my personal favorites on the album and plays off a much darker tone than what we are used to hearing. Another standout is "Cake," which Bundick allegedly wrote as a pop song that his girlfriend could easily dance to.

Bundick continues to dabble in various sides of modern music-making on Anything in Return, sampling more hip-hop driven songs that feature 4/4 beats and applied effects (often associated within the house genre). "Say That" and "Rose Quartz" resemble more of the "chillwave" sound commonly heard on Underneath the Pine, while "High Living" and "Day One" are more suggestive of a Californian and funk influence.

Overall, Anything in Return puts Toro Y Moi in the middle of the producer-songwriter spectrum and is a clear contrast of the first two albums. The album is "uninhibited by one clear genre," but works in his favor with his ability to combine multiple sounds into something more cohesive and personalized. As a songwriter, he appears to be more confident with stronger vocals throughout. Anything in Return is proof that Toro Y Moi is a prolific and diverse musician with the capability of pushing his own musical limitations. Interestingly enough, with hopes to one day return to his original career as a graphic designer, I hope he keeps music as his primary hobby while pushing his limits, because he has yet to disappoint.

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