Each of his albums have been quite different to the last, the first relying heavily on synth and samples, as part of the “chillwave” movement (Bundick considered to be one of the leading figures in this micro-genre’s inception). By contrast, his latest album, What For? is a psychedelic-indie-pop project with raw instruments and more standard musical structures. Across his catalogue of albums, this one has strayed the furthest from his avant-garde/alternate roots.
However, that’s not to say that Toro Y Moi’s new material is simple and bland pop. What For? comes across as very nostalgic, feeling like something straight out of the 60s or 70s, yet it still manages to have a modern sound. It is very funky and has a strong disco influence which is especially apparent on the tracks ‘Empty Nesters’ and ‘Spell It Out’. But, in going for this classic sound Toro y Moi hasn’t sacrificed the quality of production. All the tracks sound clear, crisp and exceptionally tight - even in parts where the texture becomes thicker with effects like delay and backing vocals in the background.
Without being overly repetitive, the tracks all fit nicely together – there was obviously extensive thought put into the conception of the album as a whole. This effect is achieved by using a lot of similar sounding instruments, such as soft synths and chorus effects on the guitars, to create a consistent tonal feel. The bass and drums are incredibly tight with each other throughout, as seen on tracks like ‘Lilly’ and ‘Spell It Out’ where the bass guitar plays a similar repetitive pattern to the drums, following the beat of the bass drum in particular and also sometimes the guitar. I think that this kind of attention to detail in meshing layers together comes from Bundick’s background in making music electronically and recording all the parts himself. The end result is solid in a way that only music created on computers is, but with a live instrument aesthetic. This is becoming a quite popular trend in music these days – i.e. Mark Ronson, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment.
As well as being a fun, happy and danceable album, What For? also has little snippets of peaceful piano or strings secitons in between some songs that are light and not overly lengthy, so that they don’t detract from the overall upbeat vibe of the rest of the album. It’s like Bundick is giving us a short break to breathe, rather than an intense forty minute action-movie-like experience.
One of my favourite tracks of What For? is ‘Empty Nesters’. It is a super cheerful song with some of the catchiest vocals on the album. It’s an anthem that celebrates happiness and finding the positive things in life even when you’re feeling down. At about the minute mark it cuts to a funky bridge section that’s very danceable and then cuts straight back into the indie pop sing-a-longs and soft guitar sounds.
Overall, What For? is a great album that’s lots of fun to listen to. My main criticism is that it isn’t extremely complex and interesting in the way that you’re able to listen to it over and over again and still be wanting more. Sometimes it can be a good thing, but I think the fault with this album is that it’s too alternate and experimental to be a good pop album and because Bundick is trying to make it feel like a pop album it is too repetitive and simple to be a good avant-garde album. Despite this, it would be perfect music for a nice summer day party relaxing in the sun with a few drinks and friends
Written by Sam Pfister
Toro Y Moi - What For?
Released: April 6 2015