Toro y Moi - What For?

by Hannah Strode

Toro y Moi is back with a new album and I’m really excited about it. I’ve been a fan for a while now and also like the more dance-y stuff Chaz Bundick makes under his other pseudonym Les Sins. Bundick has been releasing music prolifically since his debut, Causers Of This, in 2010, which is quite a feat at this point since this is his fifth full-length album.

You can see why the genre (which has been dubbed “chillwave”) is also called “summer music”, as this album sums up a leisurely summer filled with happy memories and chilling outside with your mates. But I think there’s more here than the simple capturing of a sentiment (which is no mean feat in itself). Bundick is trying somehow to subvert this, to pick the rose tinted picture apart and reveal what is truly underneath - whether he succeeds or not is up to you, but it’s definitely a noble pursuit, and something music should be doing more of in my opinion.

“Come on mummy and daddy, for the nest is empty, and so are you” sounds like the sort of miserable crooning you’d hear on a bleak and slow-paced dirge (in other words - a boring track) but mixed with the up-tempo, jovial tone and repetition of the lilting guitar samples in Empty Nesters, it exemplifies a trend I’m a huge fan of – juxtaposing the lyrical content with the musical feel à la The Drums. It’s pleasurable while also making commentary on the meaninglessness of…well, everything, really. The song also reads as a sort of backlash against the parents of the young twenty-something generation while also mocking both sides with the joyful tone of its taunting.

The piano in Ratcliff, which reminds me of tracks on the latest Vampire Weekend album, is slightly klutzy and monotone, also evoking childhood days spent plunking on the nearest ratty instrument available. The whole song completely sums up the trend of the lazy indulgent American young-adult summer, filled with pretentious books no one has heard of, wanders down to the local charity shop for a leisurely browse of the individualism on sale, and having a specific piece of clothing or hairstyle which makes you whimsical and timeless. There’s even some nice light imagery and an ironic mention of a song finishing towards the end of the song - clever.

However, Bundick does also seem to question this trend, with the lyric “everything seems so simple, you can’t tell if it’s basically fake,” which speaks to the more disillusioned, existential feeling which resides in a lot of twenty-somethings now, shown in the glorification of our “simpler” childhoods. Stop me if I sound pretentious, it might just be a product of my post-modern Social Sciences university education. But who knows…

What I do know is I can definitely find myself in the lyrics of Run Baby Run. “Sleep while you can, cause tomorrow will not feel new,” is definitely something I do on a frequent basis (to the detriment of my university grades, probably) and I think we can all agree that we sometimes feel like we’re “growing too fast”. Every single word perfectly encapsulates that feeling of having no idea what you want and no idea how to get to the future. And that’s a show of Toro y Moi’s musical talent, despite it being a feeling often expressed within the “chillwave” movement.

Basically, this album is a long rant about all the weird feelings our generation has, but it does it in a cool, relaxed way that makes it wonderful to listen to. It’s also warm and feel-good, with nuanced, layered samples of a diverse range of instruments. This allows you to pick out different parts on each new listening and make your insides feel fuzzy - that feeling when you’re captured by a track and let it float you away into the dreamscape, with bonus bitter but pleasingly melodic observations about how everything is meaningless. Which is exactly what I look for in an album, don’t you?