Toro y Moi – Boo Boo
It was only a matter of time before Toro y Moi came full circle. What began as a chillwave project for multi-instrumentalist Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick) has morphed into something less palpable; since his debut in 2010, the thirty-year-old songwriter has released albums encompassing funk, R'n'B, synth-pop, psychedelic rock, hip-hop, and trap, to name a few. This year alone, Bear has already teamed up with Californian duo The Mattson 2 for Star Stuff, a vibrant throwback to 70s jazz and soul.
Boo Boo takes Toro y Moi back to his roots – to an extent – but it’s far from a regression. Rather, it amalgamates the influences he’s picked up along the way. The strutting bassline of Inside My Head evokes the lush funk of his sophomore album Underneath the Pine, while there are shades of Star Stuff in the moody licks of instrumental Embarcadero. His 2015 mixtape Samantha flew under the radar for most but it’s had a profound influence on Bear’s musical identity, and can be felt all over Boo Boo’s sparse beats and instrumentals.
That’s not to say the music sounds lifeless. Bear purposefully explores emptiness, or a lack thereof, within the arrangements of Boo Boo; the instrumentals have room to breathe, and make for Bear’s chillest record since 2013’s Anything in Return. Amongst the influences cited on the project are Travis Scott and Frank Ocean, who took a very similar approach on his visual album Endless, with reverberated vocals and sporadic drum patterns drawing attention to its understated compositions. It makes for some of Toro y Moi’s most ambient and experimental work to date.
Autotune-tinged lead single Girl Like You takes a different approach. With its recognisable tale of unrequited love, and some of the lushest melodies of Bear’s career, it’s easily the most familiar-sounding song on the album. A poignant piano breakdown in the back half interrupts the sedative groove, before coalescing with the gluey bass and Bear’s moody vocals in the final chorus, recalling some of the American’s earliest work. It’s not just that Toro y Moi is becoming more sonically ambitious with each album. He’s getting better, too. With Boo Boo, even retreading old ground is somehow an exercise in innovation.
Listen to: Mirage, Labyrinth, Girl Like You