BOO BOO by Toro y Moi
Genre: Alternative R&B, Chillwave, Synth Funk
Favorite Tracks: “Windows,” “Girl Like You,” “Labyrinth,” “Inside My Head”
Eight years into his career, Toro y Moi is an unlikely icon. The former prince of chillwave has dabbled in a number of sounds, all incredibly diverse but strangely cohesive. From 2009’s ostentatiously trippy yet heart-wrenchingly bittersweet CAUSERS OF THIS, to the sunny 1970s fetishism of 2015’s WHAT FOR, Toro has made it clear that he won’t let “chillwave” or Travi$ Scott collaborations diminish his artistic credibility. On his latest album, the goofily titled BOO BOO, Chaz Bundick delivers an album that pulls heavily from elements of all his previous solo projects while still having a heart and soul of its own.
Instrumentally, BOO BOO feels like a cathartic culmination of every previous Toro project. Though it is an electronic album, it has a live band feel. Because of this, BOO BOO feels like Toro y Moi’s comfortable median. The album’s standout track, “Labyrinth,” sounds like a hipster “Every Breath You Take,” but satisfyingly so. The glistening synths and clanging electric piano mesh perfectly with softly mixed drums to create the most wonderfully mellow Toro track to date. Though the track is already one of the most overlooked on the album, it is one of Toro’s best tracks yet, and justifies BOO BOO as arguably the best indie soundtrack of the summer.
Though the album’s nostalgia is undeniable, BOO BOO also feels like Toro’s most modern sounding project so far. Bundick’s songwriting feels the most pop and hip hop-influenced it has ever been, leading to a fun and incredibly accessible listening experience. The album’s single, “Girl Like You,” feels like its songwriting could fit as comfortably on a Justin Bieber record as it could on an indie album, and features an AutoTuned Bundick pondering, “What’s it gonna take for a guy like me to find a girl like you.”
Though the track is a chipper headphone bop, BOO BOO is a breakup album, an outwardly upbeat comedown from a relationship that Bundick has likened to an acid trip. Without context, the heartbreak of the album does not feel apparent, but underneath its gorgeous production and major melodies, Bundick questions himself more than ever. The track “Mona Lisa” includes Bundick talking about blowing off his commitments just to make a friend and contains the hook, “there’s another one for you.” The wayward apathy of this track flows through the lyrical tone of the entire album, with Bundick never flaunting his heartbreak, but also never wearing a smile that he is not ready to wear. Though Bundick may be candid about his personal life in interviews, he has been tasteful about keeping his personal life and his music separate, and BOO BOO shows Bundick as subtle as ever in delicately sharing himself through his music without exposing too much.
My biggest qualm with BOO BOO is more of a greater qualm with Toro y Moi’s overall career. As an artist, we know Bundick is capable of working around a variety of sounds and aesthetics, but at some point, I want to be able to hear Toro lock into one sound. For an artist with five studio albums, a handful of EPs, and two side projects, it would be nice to be able to draw parallels between Toro’s projects. Each new Toro release brings a guaranteed period of warming up to an entirely new sound that may or may not fit Bundick comfortably. For example, the modernism of “Windows” could not be further from the sunny classic rock pastiche of a track like “Empty Nesters” on Toro’s previous album WHAT FOR? Though the music consistently remains impressive, it starts to get frustrating to constantly have to adjust to a blatantly drastic aesthetic change from album to album. When hearing BOO BOO’s singles before the release, I was unreceptive to the new sound and more annoyed than excited to hear the new album. Though BOO BOO ultimately disconfirmed my cynicism, it would be nice to hear Toro y Moi have more consistent elements between his projects so that the shock of an all new nostalgia can be dulled.
Ultimately BOO BOO is one of the best records of the summer and is an improvement from the album that preceded it. Toro y Moi feels like he may have reached his peak with 2013’s excellent ANYTHING IN RETURN, but he has yet to come down from the plateau that followed his magnum opus. Though I am sure I will be immediately turned off by the inevitable drastic stylistic change on Toro’s next record, I hope it has the same lovable core that keeps me coming back to Bundick as an artist.