Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer and general musical badass Chaz Bundick has received a lot of accolades in his twenty five years. This time around he wants simply Anything in Return. I find that hard to believe since his last few releases have garnered praise from the stalwarts of todays media, some even crediting him with the creation of a new genre. In a left field move, he ditches his newer wave moniker and takes a stab at a pop record. Said “stab” is of course the chillest, laid back stab of all time as Chaz has kept important pieces of his former identity alive, much to the delight of his fans. This is after all, a Toro y Moi album.
Perhaps to the casual fan’s surprise, switching up styles is nothing new to Mr. Bundick. From his early days of acoustic serenades to his recent french inspired house outfit Les Sins, dude has been all over the place in the past couple years both musically and literally. Fans at live shows all over will notice he’s recently added other musicians and now performs as a band. That being said, make no mistake about it, most of the instrumentation on the album is just Toro y Moi. More so ‘Moi’.
Right from the intro “Harm in Charge” and it’s apt verse “Don’t let me hold you down, we could be there now, and I’d rather drive it through the night” it’s clear this album lends itself to a roadtrip. A sick breakbeat with off kilter open hats and signature vocal samples drive the track as the synths build an awkwardly catchy melody. This leads directly in to “Say That” an even more beat driven jam that surely deserves play in clubs all over. The formula is similar for “Harm in Charge” but the outcome is all the more dramatic with the almost DnB bass leading the charge.
The following track “So Many Details” offers a stark contrast to the prior two. As does it’s video. As with most Toro tracks, the drums play a crucial role and this collection is perhaps the most hip hop influenced. The bass drum has a certain thump not previously offered. Beautifully haunting synthesizers add to the drama but by far the arpeggiated one is what makes this track shine. Bundick’s apathy is abundant and is maybe best summed up with the line “Ok, I’ll take you back, Alright let’s pick up where we started / Don’t think that’s in my head, I’m not a bit coldhearted.”
Even though one easily could, I wanted to avoid reviewing every track in order but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention “Rose Quartz.” What’s impressive about this one is how much patience Chaz requires of his listeners. I’m one of the many from my generation of excess that will fast forward a track to get to the part I like but not with “Rose Quartz.” Indeed the nearly two-minute build up is part of what makes this track the jewel in the crown (bad pun intended). A simple synth chord progression with another arpeggiated rhythm is the backbone to the entire track. In keeping with tradition, shortly-chopped vocal cuts are thrown in sporadically, but on beat. This signature seems like an ode to his appreciation of hip-hop. The beat builds slowly, first with just a lonely bass drum. Eventually the patient listener is rewarded with a shaker, then a proper mid-kick and–eventually–a snare. The lyrics play off a vocal sample of someone singing “I feel weak, uh huh” which is more evidence that at the core this is a pop album.
The remainder of the album is as solid as any past release from Toro, with highlights like the Sgt. Peppers-esque “High Living” to the love ballad “Cake.” The later is a testament to his aim for the record. The chorus “She knows, I’ma be her boy forever” floats over dreamy pads and an upbeat yet subtle drum break. In interviews, Chaz stated he wanted to make an album his girlfriend could sing along to. From my estimates, she won’t be the only one.