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When someone mentions the chillwave subgenre, the musician that will undoubtedly come into the conversation is Toro y Moi. This is probably because Chazwick Bundick (Toro y Moi) is the unofficial pioneer of this relatively new style of music. From his first two full-length albums, Underneath the Pine and Causers of This, fans had grown accustomed to a particular approach Chaz took with his music – a subdued, laid back feel that he incorporated into his earlier years of music production. With each track, Chaz would experiment with different sounds, yet retain the chillwave aesthetic, all the while remaining almost modest in his outward musical expression.
However, with the new year comes a new sound for Toro y Moi. In the recent release of his newest album, Anything In Return, Chaz sets out to stray away from the fading chillwave movement and make Anything In Return a pop album. Although he also seems to incorporate R&B, electronic and funk influences throughout the album, there are a select few songs that stand out as plainly as pop. The track Cake opens with the phrase “She knows, I'mma be her boy forever” and continues with a collection of cliché pop synth lines and somewhat predictable vocal catch phrases.
He is certainly pushing new boundaries for himself as a musician, particularly as a vocalist. His releases prior to this recent album featured Toro y Moi’s classic high-registered vocals, yet they were always lathered in effects, leaving a veil of mystery between he and his listeners. With Anything In Return, Chaz forgoes the hiding of his lyrics in the background of the song and presents them much more directly. Many of the tracks feature the common four-on-the-floor kick drum appeal. Toro y Moi still remains influenced by his early releases by including acoustic drums over top of these electronic, house-driven beats, forming a medley of tasteful drum sounds that capture an 80s nostalgia. Another prominent aspect of the album is the heavy use of vocal samples, whether they be from female R&B singers or from Chaz himself. Say That, the second song off the album, features a repetitive, yet infectious, vocal sample in the chorus of the song, making the dance allure of the song even more captivating.
Anything In Return has certainly sparked both positive and negative reactions from listeners. I hold different sentiments for each of the different songs off of the album. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the album as a whole can be classified as ‘pop’, per se. Rather, I would simply say that the album is a progression of Toro y Moi’s continuous development, and perhaps most importantly, of Chaz Bundick’s growth as a musician.