Toro y Moi takes the groove game

The former indie artist incorporates a variety of sounds as he evolves in his new, provocative album “Outer Peace.”


Toro y Moi performing at a show in Koko, Camden.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The colorful image of feeling invincibly youthful on a dance floor in the seventies would perfectly capture the experience of listening to Chaz Bundick’s groovy new album “Outer Peace,” released Jan. 18 under his stage name Toro y Moi.  It smoothly transcends the confines of our present era’s sound and delves successfully into experimental production, taking its listener along for a ride through the ages. “Outer Peace” also serves to justly illustrate Bundick’s impressive evolution as an artist. While critics predicted a swift retreat from the R&B sound present in Bundick’s 2017 release titled “Boo Boo,” it is wildly apparent that he has built upon his previous sound rather than tossing it aside and returning to his ambient indie roots. “Outer Peace” encompasses a range of genres and sonic pleasures which differ just enough to be intoxicatingly complementary.

“Outer Peace” has proved to eclipse Bundick’s original sound while incorporating a range of provocative new production elements. Listeners who delve into the entirety of the album are bound to melt into the vast sonic landscape the album so effortlessly exhibits. The first two tracks are surprisingly stark in contrast, yet still complement each other with stylistic ease. “Fading” begins with a pulsating, electronic beat, eventually leading into the coalescing of Toro y Moi’s instrumental and vocal elements. Its shimmering sound immediately transitions into one of the singles released in anticipation of the full album, “Ordinary Pleasure.” The song has a nearly tribal introduction, which soon fades into a groove reminiscent of classic seventies bops.

“Outer Peace” also contains several reputable featured artists, like the “Darkwave Duchess” known as ABRA, sunny lyrical savant Wet and finally, Instupendo, a young artist who rose from experimental SoundCloud tracks to widely accepted critical acclaim. Each track featuring these artists harbors unique sonic elements that separate them from the rest of the album. Most notably differential is “Miss Me,” featuring ABRA’s signature sound, which can be most sufficiently described in two words — dark and seductive. This imaginative track graced by ABRA stands alone in comparison to the upbeat and ethereal sounds of the other nine tracks. Its unnerving instrumentation exudes a vivid, almost dystopian image. 

At the other end of the spectrum, “Monte Carlo,” the track which features pop powerhouse Wet, contains a glistening beat and the soothing vocals of both artists. And Instupendo manages to find a happy medium within these two emotional extremes, aiding Bundick in creating “50-50,” a song that drips of both sweet content and thick, emotional longing.

The album’s thematic content encompasses subjects which include hectic travel, unrequited lust and love lost, not to mention an underlying distaste for our culture’s expendable nature. Playful lyrics such as, “JFK is a different animal now / Damn, baggage claim’s like a warzone,” are found in the album’s fifth track, “New House.” These are undeniably more lighthearted than the occasionally cryptic phrases contained in the song “Freelance” — “People tend to listen when they see your soul.” 

In creating “Outer Peace” and dropping melodramatic one-liners such as these, lead singer Chaz Bundick hoped to prompt creative discourse between himself and the listeners, specifically those interested in the album’s deeper meaning. These are the same individuals who would soon come to be appreciative of his artistic divergence from a singular, unified sound. The reflective lyrics of “Outer Peace” will not be lost on those who listen to them intently, but the album’s upbeat, funky instrumentation renders it a musical artwork to carelessly dance along to, as well as ponder in solitude.

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