Chaz Bundick’s production skills are unmatched. His keen ear for beats, wiggling bass lines, and soulful vocal samples lends his music an immediately recognizable style, one that dabbles in disco, electro pop, and (gulp) chillwave*.
That being said, what made Toro Y Moi a force to be reckoned with was his inclination to push his E-keyboard funk into realms of noise rock, experimental, and lo-fi guitar pop. There was a time when Toro could have easily served as tour support for Deerhunter, and his 2010 release Underneath the Pine married those tendencies with the electro-funk of Causers of This to form a singular, unique vision.
Anything in Return pairs those stylistic traits together but lacks the instant earworms and irresistible grooves of Underneath the Pine. Bundick has traded in whatever funk he has crafted over the years for a slower, less youthful iteration of his worst tendencies. Perhaps Bundick’s growing up and allowing himself more room for lyrics addressing the eventual matter of settling down with your love, but his end result is bloodless and uninspired. The vocal melodies stretch his voice into high falsettos and are forgettable and indistinct from song to song. Most songs hang around the mid-tempo mark, the point at which grinding at a party can ensue if the bass is just so or at which everyone stands around wondering when the party will actually get started. And though Bundick has never been consistent in producing party music all the time (which is more than fine with me), his newest batch seems to fit neither in the party setting nor in the headphones. Not many songs stray past the five-minute mark, yet their aimless structures slow time tremendously, giving the feeling that every track could benefit from heavy editing.
The one point at which Bundick seems to let loose is “Never Matter,” a razor-sharp piece of hi-fi electro pop that could have easily slid anywhere into the track listing of his debut. Since Underneath the Pine’s success, Bundick gave an interview and made the comment that his music can never stay in one place. Meaning, the next album would undoubtedly mark yet another evolution for the producer/songwriter. Instead, he has given us effectively more of the same but with his virtuosity tuned to grayscale.
*Side note: what the hell else am I supposed to call chillwave? As soon as someone gives me a new term that will in time become a sour soundbyte, I will comply.