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Readers' Review: Toro y Moi - Boo Boo

Can an artist take us back, while bringing us forward?

I've been an avid fan of Toro y Moi, Chaz Bundicks' multi-instrumental project band since 2011's Underneath The Pine, a thoughtful album that felt like the perfect intersection of Funk, R&B, and Electronica. I was interested, but it was really the Freaking Out EP, released later that year, that sold me.

On that EP was a cover of Cherrelle and Alexander O'Neal's "Saturday Love". Chaz made it all his own. By that I mean you could play it for a child, and they will grow up knowing it as a Millennial Toro y Moi classic.
The rest of the EP flowed so naturally around it, with its disco drums and crisp, engaging bass lines, it was hard to not feel like you'd stumbled across your cool uncle's records. This music doesn't feel like the 80s. It's both before our time, and ahead of our time.

2013's Anything In Return was a garage/90s revival that could also be credited with bringing Chaz to mass appeal, depending who you ask. What came after, 2014's What For? was, for fans like myself, a complete departure from his electronic style, in favor of a more natural, acoustic vibe. 

He'd taken us from Burning Man 2025, to Woodstock '69 Remastered, and frankly, I was confused as to what would come next.

Finally, we reach the point.

2017's Boo Boo starts off with "Mirage", a record that will immediately grab the Day One Toro y Moi fan by the neck, reminding them of exactly who they were dealing with. The song has a 1:00 intro, building a two-step rhythm that will get both your old aunties and your crazy cousins on the dance floor with ease.

The themes of the album haven't strayed much from the usual; reflections on life and love on the road, trying to keep a level head, even as you get pushed to the center of your own universe, faster than the speed of light. On "No Show", Chaz sings, "Been a second since I been home/Took a second, cause my baby don't know I/Been so hesitant, I'm such a no show/My baby got fed up with my ego//". That solid core of reflective writing, and the ability to keep a fluid approach to the same muse, have been one of the main reasons every record is able to be so different from the last. 

There are some more experimental tracks on here as well, like the mostly instrumental "Pavement", that sets a trance-like stage for the dark and brooding "Don't Try", with it's nihilistic chorus, "Don't try to understand, what you are/Don't try to make it more, than it is//." 

Still, in such a progressive sounding album, there are flickers of the muse. The albums' midpoint is marked by "Embarcadero", which could easily be mistaken for a re-purposed Jon B. instrumental. It's so nostalgic, even with the futuristic flavor, I can still taste some of the wild, big haired 80s. 

"Girl Like You" and "You And I" are separate songs, that sound like they were made as two sides of the same story. The sparkly and wonderful moment you first meet your love, followed by the deeply affected reflection that comes after love lost. These are my two favorite tracks on the entire album, just for the smart decision of putting them one after the other on the playlist. It's a love story, and possibly the theme of the album, condensed into two moods. The wonder and the pain.

The album finally winds down with two upbeat records, "Labyrinth" and "Inside My Head", the latter being an upbeat standout, and a departure from the breakup vibes before it. "Left my baby down in San Francisco/I can never find another one like her/Slowed down somewhere outside of Reno/Situations making me tired//." The descriptive writing on this song makes me feel like I'm racing across Death Valley with Chaz Bundick, in a black Challenger, destination unknown. That's pretty much how the story always is with Toro y Moi, though. You're on his trip, and you know not the road, nor the end point. You're cool, though, because the vibe is right, and is never wrong.

The closer, "W.I.W.W.T.W" (What Is Wrong With This World), almost sounds like a closure of the love story Toro y Moi has told since the beginning. "Alright I lied, when I said that you weren't on my mind/As if I haven't called/As if you were worried?//" turns into a distorted, haunting guitar riff, where an even more haunting voice says, "I know there's no reason/Why does there have to be?//" It's almost like Chaz has asked his love every question in the book, and she finally is responding to him, if not the way he, or any of us, were expecting.

The entire record has that neon-80s glow of Freaking Out!, coupled with the intelligent songwriting of Anything In Return. It's not an overtly nostalgic record, even though it gives you the feeling that one day, you too will get a side eye from your children for playing in the car.

Unlike my parents, however, I'd be totally justified in telling my children they don't know jack about real music.

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Readers' Review: Toro y Moi - Boo Boo
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