Album Review: Toro y Moi – Anything in Return

18 Dec

It really is only a matter of time until we lose Grooveshark forever, isn’t it?

Yesterday, I attempted to review this album for you all, but unfortunately, the stream I was listening to only had the first 9 tracks.  I have stopped downloading leaks, so I was stymied for a day.

Never fear, Grooveshark is here, allowing its users to once again propagate the Internet with leaked albums, free and clear (for me anyways).

Toro y Moi has been a bastion of Chillwave since its inception way back in 2008.

Chillwave, for the uninitiated, is dance music that has high levels of trance qualities.  It’s hard to rectify the idea that Chillwave and Dream Pop have anything in common, and yet there is this intrinsic link between the two.  Chillwave is like Dream Pop’s unruly child, trying to do its own thing, while still carrying on the traditions and values of its mother (Dream Pop is a woman).

If you were to trust Rate Your Music on this one, Toro y Moi had the first Chillwave album, 2008’s My Touch.  Three albums later, he continues to ride the wave into what may prove to be his best release yet.  

I’ll be blunt, it’s hard to write about chillwave (I wonder how many times I’ve said that word now.  Anyone counting along at home?), due to the fact that it tries its damnedest not to draw attention to itself.

Anything in Return features a lot of heavy heavy bass, a lot of sampling and some glorious synthesizers.

Tracks like “Harm in Change”  and “So Many Details”, especially the latter are funky to an extreme, and it leaves you with this undeniable urge to groove.  That’s the part about the genre that really stands apart, is that house/trance dance vibe, without the hangover.

The true shining quality of the album, however, is in songs like “Say That” and “Cola” (a strong stand-out): Effects.  A lot of care and detail went into layering everything here together, or at least it sounds like a lot of care went into it, I can’t attest as I was not in the studio.  You have drums, percussion, arpeggiating synthesizer, piano, vocal, effects on said vocals and of course bass and it’s all happening at the same time.  Sometimes I’m just overcome with the urge to see what the audio files for some of this stuff must look like.

And then there’s album highlight, “Rose Quartz” which features my current favorite thing in the entire universe:  Plunderphonics.  2012 was seriously lacking in that department, and I hope this early instance of the trippy, skippy sampling method is a sign that a return is in store.  Despite his insistence that he feels weak, this song is anything but.  December 2013 is a long way away, but we certainly already have a contender for best track of the year.

It’s not all ambient sampling dance, either.  As Chaz Bundick (AKA, Toro y Moi) has gone on record saying, “I was trying to make a pop record.”  These songs definitely are more structured than their predecessors, especially on songs like “Grown Up Calls” and “Cake”.  Especially “Cake”.  It’s like he was trying to write a Justin Bieber song.  This might sound like a bad thing, but I swear it’s not.  There’s some smooth R&B going on in the track, but fans of Bundick are likely going to be super confused by the complete musical turn around.  I wouldn’t blame them.  It blind-sided me a bit, but thankfully, I’d read a few interviews and was ready for almost anything.  “She knows/I’m gonna be her boy forever”.  Yep.  Real lyrics.  Which is interesting in and of itself, that there are easily understood lyrics on this song.  “I’m just trying to make sincere pop music that’s not all processed and bubblegum. Underground isn’t always relevant; I want to see what’s popular, then put my own spin on it.” Source: Interview Magazine

By the end of the album (“Never Matter”) he’s even throwing down some “West End Girls” inspired big beat numbers.  This is probably too heavy to be a song that would have been released in the 80’s, but he’s still wearing his influences on his sleeve.

Overall, this album is a little bit of a mess.  There are definitely still chillwave songs, but his attempt at recording pop does not go unnoticed, though maybe I’m crazy for not noticing it as much in the first half.  Regardless, the album is still layered and you’re going to want headphones, I assure you.  The panning effects alone beg for your eardrums.  The range from house, to ambient, to funk to psychedelic (“Studies”) to, of course, pop, will have you more than entertained for the extent of its fairly lengthy run-time (when compared to his previous albums).

8.0/10 – For being so damn scatter-brained


Enjoy the video for “So Many Details”



Anything in Return is due out January 22nd and is available now to pre-order here.

Please do, I know I will be picking up that sweet poster and maybe even the hilariously 90’s White T-Shirt.

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