Chaz Bundick has been spreading good vibes since 2009. As Toro Y Moi, he makes music befitting the gauzy radiance of a summer's day. His tunes inhabit a kind of parallel universe where no one ever has bad hair days, or migraines, and the cocktails keep flowing till the early hours.
Having flirted with many genres over his brief but productive career, Bundick's fourth LP sees him go for pop gold by trying to make an album his 'girlfriend would dance to' (his girlfriend likes Justin Bieber... but keep reading!). Despite his other half's questionable taste, Bundick's own judgement is never anything less than impeccable. The man has covered everyone from Beach House to Michael Jackson in the past, and always comes out on top. His production skills are glossy, and he posseses a voice most electronic producers would slay for.
Lead single, 'So Many Details' sets out the album's modus operandi well. To say the production is glossy is like calling a Maserati 'a bit flash'. Shimmering synths undulate sleazily over heavy hip hop beats, whilst Bundick does his best wounded lothario impression. It's an r&b-inflected triumph and shows how Bundick can do more than just create moods: he can, like, write memorable songs, too. Yet it is very pop, which while not a bad thing per se, may be a shock to some more ardent chillwavers, if such people exist.
The second half of the album consists of more heavily r&b-infused tracks which one could conceivably imagine an Usher or a Justin Timberlake singing. Other than the saccharine, 'Day One', this poppier section holds up reasonably well. It shows Bundick is capable of creating memorable hooks and choruses too, not just sultry ambiance. The sunny, 'Cake,' for instance, seems destined for a radio playlist with its preposterously uplifting chorus affirmation - 'she got my back and I know it'- and bleepy synth arpeggios.
However, Bundick's strongest suit is his production/ arrangement skills, and it's the effortlessly chill songs with lengthy instumental sections which are most effective. So it's a shame he didn't pen an album of songs like 'Rose Quartz'. The opening two minutes of this stunning House edged number are Anything In Return's best. They witness a spliced vocal sample mesh with blissful synth washes to slowly form a groove which defies all resistance against head nodding.
Anything In Return is best when it settles for what it is: classy mood-setting music. Its most successful moments (and I mean this in the best possible way) are a bit 'lava lamp'. The bombastic pop statements, though well handled, are just not as effortlessly great as the rest, and the endless play of boy girl lyrical scenarios does get a bit tiresome after a while. Especially when it's not necessary. I mean, why use words when you can say so much through sound alone?
If this album doesn't 'break' Toro Y Moi to a wider audience (as well it might) then Bundick's next step will be interesting - he can't really go any more pop. Whatever happens, this is a strong album from a chameleon like talent capable of donning any genre cloak he favours. I'm just holding out for a deep house record...
7Tim Peyton's Score