For Anything In Return, his third proper full-length as Toro Y Moi, Chaz Bundick told Interview Magazine he was “trying to make a pop record.” That’s a noble aim, a common sentiment, and- as anyone with ears knows within moments of pressing play- a perfectly accurate (if a bit reductive) statement. Anything In Return is most certainly a pop record, complete with four-on-the-floor beats, gleaming synths, and dancefloor-rattling bass to complement hooky songwriting and an expertly produced (never over-produced) aesthetic. Clearly informed by his deep house experimentation on the Les Sins project, as well as his previous genre-defying pop output under the Toro Y Moi moniker, Bundick has cobbled together the first addictively listenable, unanimously appealing release of 2013.
2011’s Underneath The Pine was a varied effort, including lo-fi disco tracks alongside soaring neo-Beach Boys vocals with a dreamy, shoegaze-y sensibility. For Anything In Return, Bundick keeps the variety, multiplies the disco basslines, tones down the Brian Wilson worship, doubles the dreaminess quotient and stops looking at his damned shoes. He channels Prince on the steamy, pulsing “Grown-Up Calls” and affects a gentle delivery for the open, understated “Touch”.
The subtlety that made his previous work so rewarding comes through on “Cola” and “Day One”, but moments later he’s all bluster and bombast on anthemic cuts like “Never Matter” and “Say That”. As a singer, dude plays it cool even at the most musically over-the-top moments, which is always a smart move- a less nuanced delivery in conjunction with the arena-sized bass on “Never Matter” would catapult the whole project over the shark into Black Eyed Peas territory, and there’s little evidence he’s got those kind of pipes anyway. Bundick works his voice smart rather than hard, using it as a complement to his genius-level production rather than vice versa.
All told, Anything In Return is scintillating upon first listen and gets better with repetition. It’s a laid-back enough to bump at the afterparty, with parts robust enough to have been the party. It’s a funky record, to be sure, but never self-consciously so—you can bump Anything In Return with that special someone and not want to turn it off afterwards. Bundick said right off the bat that his new Toro Y Moi album would be a pop record, and he was spot-on: it’s a delightfully weird, highly addictive mixture of equal parts yacht rock, disco, chillwave, house and R&B.