When Toro Y Moi last left us with the Freaking Out
EP, Chaz Bundick was steering away from the chillwave missives that first put him on the music radar back in 2010. Coming off his second full-length, 2011's Underneath the Pine
, in which Bundick eschewed the gooey reverb wash of Causers of This
and transformed his one-man bedroom project into a grooving, proper-band affair with a shared love of disco and motorik space-age funk (e.g. Stereolab), this EP was even more of an unexpected page turn. Very much a solitary studio endeavor again, here Bundick took his Toro Y Moi guise into full-on dancefloor territory, with not-so-subtle nods to clubby Reagan-era synth-pop, freestyle, and R&B radio jams filtered through swooshing phase-shifts and polished, sparkling production. Though only five-songs long, including a cover of Cherrelle and Alexander O'Neal's 1985 hit "Saturday Love," one got the impression that the mini-album was a preview of what was to come, and Freaking Out
just so happened to be Toro Y Moi's most exciting and fully realized outing yet.
Sure enough, Anything in Return
isn't another reinvention but rather a natural progression from where that too-short EP left us, with Bundick continuing to refine both his pop chops and his production skills -- in fact, this is about as far from bedroom-recorded sounding as you can get. From the '90s-inspired house-pop of tracks like "Harm in Change" (complete with black-key piano-chord accents and diva samples), "Say That" (with even more chopped-up diva samples) and the chilled shuffle of "Rose Quartz," to the heady, break-driven psych-soul of "Studies" or the slow-jam yearn of "Cola," the album reveals itself to be Toro Y Moi's most nuanced work to date. Though first and foremost centered on song-craft, there's still no shortage of Bundick's sonic signatures, with plenty of hip-hop rhythms, shimmering synths and electric Rhodes, and of course his bittersweet breathy melodies that channel both Pharrell and Sam Prekop in equal measure. There are more than a few numbers here that will sound great in a club, but Anything in Return
is an album best listened to from start to finish with headphones on, eyes closed, and mind cleared for Bundick to take you places with his meticulously layered arrangements, swirling multi-colored production and laidback croon -- funky AND visceral, it all makes for a grower in the best possible way.
"So Many Details"