Unearthed: Toro Y Moi— Anything In Return
Posted in Unearthed
I first got wind of Toro Y Moi by accident. Before he even released “Blessa” as a single, I saw him open for St. Vincent. It was a crowd of maybe 75 people in the beautiful Jefferson Theatre in Charlottesville, VA. I hated his performance. I thought his tones clashed, couldn’t sing, and fought himself to find appropriate words that could only be described as shallow. When Causers Of This came along, it proved to only validate my opinions. Of course this will most surely be a confronted statement, and it should be. Chaz Bundick’s proposal was a gallant effort that put him on everyone’s radar, but I still think he believed a G-chord played over a G#-chord would sound angelic.
Fast forward a few years and Bundick presents a strikingly new sound on Anything In Return. This record is great overall, but it suffers from a few filling moments of quizzical songs and parts that after listening can only beg the questions: 1) was that a song? and 2) was that really necessary to put into an otherwise exciting record or song? The record as a whole finds Bundick exploring a jazzier sector of indie rock. He plays around with rooted bass lines that sometimes even tend to take over a song rather than just provide a ground on which his synth prowess can run free. He also plays off the beat a lot, which presents a double-edged sword for the record’s sound. On one hand, it shows further growth in Bundick’s artistic abilities – his penchant for playing around the beat gives his songs more character and can help the listener feel connected differently than to an otherwise straight-beat tune. On the other hand, this can get way too fucking annoying at times. “Say That” is a great example. Throughout the whole song, there’s the most annoying female vocal sample that rises above the rest of the components of the song. It ruins it. Maybe it was his way of jumping on the overplayed pitched vocal sample train that most electronic producers use as a way to give the repetitive notions of their music some transformative value, but in all honesty, it’s just obnoxious. Bundick is way more talented than that. Why didn't he throw in a guitar or piano solo? Not only does he have a vast amount of experience with more traditional instruments, his music lends itself to that kind of addition. Electronic tendencies should be avoided at all costs for his music style. It’s injurious.
I still take concern with Bundick’s vocals. He seems like he’s trying too hard to emulate a sound he wishes to attain, an ideal, but he just doesn’t have the power. Also, his lyrics should be revisited. They’re so poppy and cliché. I expected more introspective power from this effort.
I think we tend to cast Bundick as an ideal - society’s perception of the closest thing to perfection that we can unfortunately never attain - which is probably why I'm so overly critical of this record. He has gone through a ridiculous transformation as a musician. His production early in his career was not nearly of the caliber it is on Anything In Return, and his musicianship has exponentially improved. He represents what all artists wish to be. He worked hard, tried and failed, tried and succeeded, experimented and remained complacent… all in the name of advancing his art. He wasn’t a one hit wonder that came out of nowhere like many fad-setters that we just get tired of after a few months. Bundick has reached a continuing level of success that is admirable. In a sense, maybe he is the ideal even if his music is far from it.