Prolific is an understatement when it comes to Chaz Bundick aka Toro y Moi
. Chaz has released seven projects since 2009, all under the Toro y Moi moniker except one. A leader of the chillwave movement, his songs serve a purpose in this digital age. With the rise of the Internet, the youth has been obsessed with retro and throwback sounds and styles. Toro y Moi is a prime example of this idea taken to the max. His ability to mold different 80's influences such as synthpop, R&B, house, and other electronic elements has made him easily digestible and a chill listen...pun intended. Self-produced, Chaz knows how to make the best of his voice. Processed and layered, his vocals fit perfectly in the mix to delight and entertain. Chaz is very good at what he does, but almost too good. With such an out pour of content, it becomes easy to fall to complacency. His new album, What For?
, looks to combat that idea.
The album is different by Chaz's standards. He pushes back even further than the 80's, crafting a psychedelic journey that is equally trippy and strange yet worthwhile. The switch up is welcome if not a little uninspired. Chaz is an excellent musician and the album proves that. Repeatedly he crafts catchy melodies and warm instruments that make this album the perfect Spring/Summer soundtrack. "Buffalo" finds Chaz singing, "Looking for the one to blame is tough/Doesn't matter what you're talking about/She's gonna keep calling your bluff/We're not the only ones doing this," over a powerful drum beat and grooving bass line. The guitar and synth riffs mold into each other and drop out of the mix quickly as the drums and vocal harmonies are what Chaz wants us to notice.
"Empty Nesters" is a heavy rock jam. The riffs are crunchy and at the forefront as Chaz sounds distant, yet still in control. The guitar riff is simple but ear catching. You definitely haven't heard Toro Y Moi sound so ready to be a rock star before this. As the chorus hits and a surreal keyboard riff starts playing, Chaz sings, "I'll try to hum it to you if I can't sing/My baby wants me back before I even leave." His confidence is high, but is that a good thing? Chaz has always sounded almost too comfortable in his music. Once again, he seems to be on cruise control.
Later, "Lilly" takes on a life of its own as drowning keyboards take center stage behind what appears to be the same old drums on every song. Chaz is on point when he almost slurs, "Every day's like this/No one gets nowhere/Everyone's like this/No one gets nothing." The idea is strangely prophetic, as Chaz seems to be self commenting on his music. Even as he changes his style a bit, the same old problem can be found in the music. As previous detractors of chillwave have claimed, the music has almost no variation. After multiple listens, it did not make it any easier to distinguish between most verses of songs. Chaz truly shines on choruses, writing impossibly memorable hooks that make the price of admission worthy. The most interesting part of the song is the naked piano riff that outros the song. Maybe he should have considered doing something full and formed with that idea.
Album closer "Yeah Right" is a downbeat self-doubting number. Once again, Chaz seems to be focused on the world around him in a musical sense. With lines like, "Who are your new friends?/Why did you bring them?/But who am I?/Who am I?" it appears Chaz may have even lost his way trying to form a new sound. The excellent, "let's hang out soon/I'll give you a call," line is a relatable idea that anyone with a failing friendship could understand. The music is dark but somehow still finds Chaz singing in his "everything is going to be all right" voice.
is by no means a bad album. Very strong lyrically and melodically, Chaz shows what Toro y Moi is best at. Unfortunately, the lack of diversity between the song sounds makes it feel like one big jam confessional session into Chaz's mind. The album lacks direction, as if Chaz just recorded whatever he thought sounded best in the moment. While the album should gain additional fans and keep the old ones, Chaz should look to be even more experimental on his follow up. Go away for a year or two. Think of a great idea. Hell, he has the skill. Now he just needs to find the way.
Check out "The Flight" below and pick up the album here