Friday, January 25, 2013

Toro Y Moi: Anything In Return

To preface this post, I feel that I should explain that I spent a good part of last evening laying on the floor in a dark room hoping my head didn't explode, so I'm not exactly "one hundred percent" today (looks-wise, I think I'm also closer to about five right now, judging by my husband's double-take when he saw me this morning).  Luckily, this was a pretty good album to listen to in my current state, since it contains what I can best describe as music that splits the difference between Deee-Lite's shameless electronic world camp and Supreme Beings of Leisure's smooth downtempo cool, or in other words nice, listenable, dance-y pop.  Oh, and if you've never heard of one or either of those bands: good, cause I'm getting ahead of myself anyway.

So... the nuts and bolts.  Toro Y Moi is just one dude, Chazwick Bundick, and the name is indeed a cross between Spanish words (being the "Toro y" part, or "Bull and") and a French word ("moi" of course, Miss Piggy style) (from Wikipedia).  And from the interviews I've found with him, he seems like a nice young fellow - for instance, Noisey quotes him as explaining the album title by saying "it also just means not expecting anything in return, or getting a favor. If you do something for someone you shouldn't expect anything in return," and Bundick admits to wanting to work with Kendrick Lamar, The-Dream, and Justin Bieber on Pigeons and PlanesSo clearly the kid's got taste (I don't know why I'm calling him a kid - he's only a few years younger than me.  I blame the headache, which has made me feel at least one hundred and eighty-five).  That same interview on Pigeons and Planes also quotes him as saying that, for this new album, he "wanted to push the more accessible elements and see if I could make a good sounding album even though it’s accessible."  Who can argue with that?

Musically, this record has many poppy electronic elements and often relies pretty heavily on Bundick's singing, which usually comes out as a thin but pleasant falsetto (in the Noisey piece Bundick says he "wanted to challenge my range on this album and really sing; maybe try to hit a range that I wasn't really used to hitting.").  "Say That" is a blend of hypnotic, world-dance jungle synths and an echoing female background vocal (lyrics include "She's all right/I'm all right/We're all right"), and "Rose Quartz" plays with tempo and syncopation, blinking to life in a rainbow of vocal blips and scattered synths before a lounge beat unifies it all.  My favorite song may have been "Cake", a vocal-heavy number which layers more woozy synths over a flashing beat ("She knows/I'mma be her boy for ever").  Overall, this album struck me as more of background music than the focal point of the room, and Bundick's lyrics are often difficult to make out, so the vocals can be more textural than informative.  Either way, however, it's a pleasant and subtle listen, the kind of record that pops a little bit more each time you put it on.  Especially after you watch this video and realize he's a secret sloth.

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