Part of the chillwave movement which has also spawned the likes of Washed Out, Neon Indian and Beat Connection, Columbia bedroom pop maestro Chazwick Bundick has admitted that he wants to make the leap from cult concern to chart star with the third album under his Toro Y Moi guise, Anything In Return.
Previously renowned for his eclectic ambient soundscapes, there are times on the follow-up to 2011’s Underneath The Pine when Bundick appears to have made too big a jump. “Cake” could be mistaken for a misguided attempt at smooth R&B by early 00s pop-punksters Good Charlotte, while final track “How’s It Wrong” is unintentionally the kind of corny boy-band parody that you’d expect from The Lonely Island.
Thankfully, Toro Y Moi’s mainstream intentions aren’t always so hopelessly executed. The deliciously sleazy funk of “Grown Up Calls” echoes the Neptunes’ stellar productions for Justin Timberlake; “Never Matter” is an M83-esque Gallic nu-synth affair filled with anthemic rolling piano hooks and “oooh, yeah” hip-hop samples; while Bundick’s sweet, lighter-than-air vocals come to the forefront on the gorgeous slow-motion house of “Rose Quartz.”
Elsewhere, the meandering spacey jazz-funk of “High Living” and the Byrds-inspired psychedelic folk-pop of “Studies” prove that Anything In Return isn’t completely averse to Toro & Moi’s usual idiosyncrasies–although the stuttering electro of “Harm In Change” and the nocturnal trip-hop of “Cola” are much more adept at avoiding self-indulgence.
But it’s the caffeine slump beats, spooky refrains of “what happened to us” and woozy echo-laden finale of “So Many Details,” alongside the beautifully melancholic “Touch,” that turn out to be the album’s crowning glories, suggesting the likes of How To Dress Well and Holy Other certainly don’t have the whole depressing post-R&B sub-genre sewn up just yet.
By drifting from Bieber-esque tween-pop to spacey West Coast funk, Anything In Return will no doubt bewilder both Bundick’s loyal following and new converts in equal measures. But while it’s unlikely to make Toro Y Moi a household name, it’s still an admirable and often fascinating stab at broadening his appeal.