REVIEW: Toro y Moi – What For?

Toro y Moi is one of those acts – you know you like him, but struggle to name any of his nearly-hits. It’s rather welcome, then, that What For? brings with it ten songs that deserve at least synchronisation in a TV show (not least in a remake of That 70s Show) and should reach an audience who like this sort of well-sung thing.

Toro y Moi is the 28 year-old Chazwick Bundick (why he didn’t go with that joyous thing as a stage name only Chaz Budz knows) from South Carolina, Florida’s more grown-up brother state. He went to USC and gained a degree in graphic design; as a result he designs his record sleeves and fills his them with grown-up pop music that hipsters will say they used to like.

With Steely Dan due a renaissance after performing in this spring’s Coachella festival (Glasto in a desert, everyone), Toro y Moi would seem a perfect support act for a band who also write well-structured, classic pop music. Some might call it ‘yacht rock’, we call it ‘coasting music’. Whatever the term, it’s a languorous and delicious album.

On it, Bundick uses the ingredients of pop to create his own soundscape: chords, melodies, drum patterns and stereo effects all come together. The lead single is Empty Nesters, an immediately catchy tune which recalls Beck in the falsetto delivery as well as in its up-and-down melodies and chord sequences. “I’ll try and hum it to you if I can’t sing” is one of many of the album’s lyrics that are as lovely as the tunes.

There are shades of that old rock genre (Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald and the aforementioned Dan of steel) in Bundick’s delivery and harmonies, but there’s a mellow texture to tracks like opener What You Want and closer Yeah Right, both with diminished chords that add sadness to the glee.

Spell It Out is almost parody of a jazz-funk yacht-rock classic, but it’s so bloody groovy that staying still isn’t an option. Meanwhile, even though we were certain Bundick had released a track called Buffalo previously, it’ll still remain massively appealing to followers of Phoenix and Daft Punk in its staccato delivery, while synths and drums stay in motion around the vocal.

The Flight takes inspiration from the guitar sounds of the Isley Brothers and lays a smooth groove underneath some chat about dreams and having “all we want”. The instrumentation and the syncopation are both ear-catching, and shows how omnivorous Toro y Moi is as a fan of music. Alongside artists like Ben Folds, Beck and Rivers Cuomo, What For? is a sure-as-hell sign that Chaz Bundick deserves a place in the Geek-Rock Hall of Fame.

Jonny Brick

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