Beginning the year with fashionably great music is always a welcome addition. Now, for three of the past four years, Toro Y Moi’s main man, Chaz Bundick, has released a terrific new album at the beginning of each year. Commencing with his debut, Causers of This, where he, along with friends, ushered in the sounds of ‘chillwave,’ it was quickly followed with Underneath the Pine’s new funky and soulful vibe – Bundick has shown a deft hand at delivering the goodness early on. 2013 marks a new step in the tradition he’s helped curate, with Anything in Return showcasing that the sounds continue to develop and further improve.
There isn’t anything as jaggedly distorted, like on maybe the Flying Lotus tendencies of “Fax Shadow,” or even the instrumentally adorned sheer of “Divina.” Instead, Bundick has added to these tendencies, with new-found beats and drives that take a page out of Hot Chip, more so than the aforementioned LA producer. The opening strands of “Harm in Change” present a delicate ear to the fluidity of an opening gesture and it sets a high mark for the album to carry. Anything in Return is easily, the musician’s deepest and most substantially grand album – at thirteen songs long, only one under three minutes – that just happens to be his strongest to date.
Easily felt is the shift in songcraft from something with immediate impact, towards something stemmed from within: regarding attention to layering and progression. A song like “Rose Quartz” doesn’t truly sparkle until after a minute and half of bubbling culmination and as Bundick’s voice descends, the music is effervescent with stunning qualities. It’s merely cemented as the album grows stronger as it plays, the softer pace and chilled vibe of “Day One” allows for Bundick’s improved songwriting to shine. The synths still sound charming and endearing and still encased with a driving beat, the skillset for Toro Y Moi’s arsenal simply seems to be growing.
While it’s definitely safe to crave the beginning moments of Bundick’s already strong career, the sheer fact that he’s continued to improve and step forward – rather than sideways, or worse, backwards – should be congratulated without question. Surely, the beat-heavy stomp of “Freak Love” can be seen as the beginning, rather than the climax. Where “Studies” adds a nervy piano and suitably accompanying synthesizer, Bundick has fleshed out the production to include more depth. The R&B style of closer “How’s It Wrong” recalls influences from the early 90s that allowed for a more heartfelt delivery and Bundick takes full advantage, singing about how it could be wrong to dream about someone he can never have anyways. These are new sounds to embrace and presented so exceptionally well, with pace and flow in mind, they are a winning combination through and through.
After many branded him with a funk master style after Underneath the Pine, Bundick wasted little time asserting himself as a varied artist with the Freaking Out EP and its dance-heavy stylings. And now, after a much-needed break, Anything in Return is a myriad collection of multi-dimensional songs. Steady growth is definitely accomplished and continuing to deliver music for fans to eat up is never a problem. He might be singing “I’m only built for show” on the aforementioned closer, but that’s obviously not the case when it comes to music. For now Bundick has accomplished many great feats and with Anything in Return, the first great album of 2013.