Album Review: Toro Y Moi, ‘What For?’

Toro Y Moi What For?
(Carpark Records – April 7, 2015)
(Indie, Rock, Nostalgia, Funk)

Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, Chaz is back with yet ANOTHER album release, marking one of the busiest years of his musical career thus far, From constant touring, contributions to other artists (See Chromeo), contributing to GTA, releasing his first album under his side-project LES SINS, recording the stellar Sunday Dinner by Keath Mead, and recording what could be one of the more ambitious albums of Toro Y Moi’s lifespan as a band (bandspan).

Toro Y Moi has a real knack for remaining consistent while bringing foreign sounds to the table. He possesses the ability to progress his music into different territories and genres while retaining his own individual footprint. One foot grounded in the familiar nostalgic warm sound that has always worked in his favor, while letting the other venture into different genres hip/hop, electronic, and indie rock.

What For? marks a real milestone for Toro, as this comes off as the first real “Toro Y Moi as a live band” album, While previous works felt a bit confined to the laptop, only toying slightly with live instrumentation on 2010’s Underneath the Pine. The sample-laydened, drum machine heavy tracks are no longer present on this release. Many of the songs possess structure composed around a melody or chord progression, rather than borrowing from a single rift or loop idea. You can see the band becoming tighter and more comfortable as a musical unit, as the songs no longer feel confined to digital apparatus.

Let’s back up for one second. This album is literally buttery, nostalgic, audio gold. Listening to “Empty Nesters”, the first single from What For?, is a glowing experience. The colorful synth, the Beatles-esque drums, and the “Funkytown”-like bridge created with layers of acoustic guitars make this track bleed color. You can’t help but think winter has finally passed after letting this one rattle your brains for a bit.

It’s clear that Chaz is wearing his influences on his sleeves as you move through What For?.

Opener, “What You Want” is one of the more memorable tracks, presenting the warm tape cassette tone associated with most of Chaz’s earlier music. It is clear that a lot of these songs were written on or for the guitar, as a lot of 70’s-era classic rock/funk  is heard throughout the album. Guitar fills the length of this recent release, a contrast to previous releases.

The track, “The Flight” possesses some interesting Hip-Hop influence in a rhythmic sense but turns into something unexpected.
After “Empty Nesters”, just five songs deep, the flow of glow-funk is halted by the less funky “Ratcliff”. “Ratcliff” comes across as an awkward attempt at an oddly assembled piano ballad. While the piano layers are done well, the song doesn’t quite manifest it’s potential, leaving the notion that the track’s awkwardness wasn’t a play on Chaz’s more ironic sides.

The funky tones from the first few songs are brought back in “Lilly” & “Speak it Out”, with the latter almost sounding like a rock-infused Chic song, carrying lots of Nile Rodgers sounding rhythm. “Speak it Out” works really great, treading lines between a soundtrack to a 70’s buddy cop movie, and the next big disco hit.”Half Dome” introduces some new sounds to the pallet, as cowbells and backup harmonies (presumably from other bandmates) are added to the mix.

Ahhh…. Finally, “Run Baby Run”. This song is one of the best of the album, as it recalls the same nostalgic glow from “Empty Nesters”. This is Toro Y Moi as a live band, having fun playing rock music. This track is nothing short from pure, fun energy. What For? comes to an end on a tone of self-reflection. “Yeah Right”, with lines like “Who are your new friends?” and “I took my time, now I’ll stand in line to see you, Hey how ya been?” feels like Chaz Bundick reflecting on his gradual rise to fame over the last few years. How people from his home town of Columbia, old classmates, bandmates may feel a level of alienation due to growing popularity. Simply – only a mild theory.

Point being, this is a damn fine record. Toro Y Moi consistently puts out GOOD work, and makes it increasingly more difficult to categorize them/him into only a few genres. As a whole, this album is one of their strongest. This will definitely become the summer soundtrack for many.

Well, for me at least.

Give it a shot, take a listen. What do you think?
What for?


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