Toro y Moi: ‘What For?’ Album Review

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Chaz Bundick is more of a music junkie than he is a musician. Within the short span of his career, the man, commonly referred to by his stage name Toro y Moi, has a palette of material that extends across multiple genres. His debut Causers of Thiswas a swirling wind of lo-fi chillwave (a coined term that initially popularized his music), Underneath The Pine traveled in the road of funk while the equally excellent Anything In Return dabbled in the warmest depths of R&B. He even picked up a second alter ego in Les Sins, creating psychedelic beach music that is further stripped down and fleshed out on his latest studio album, What For?With an ambitious drive similar to his mentor, Flying Lotus, Chaz’s newest effort turns out to be some of his most interesting music to date.

Bundick gets into his most Tame Impala here, carving out trippy melodies and groovy guitar riffs that amplify his ballads of unrequited love. “Looking for the one to blame is tough/Doesn’t matter what you’re talking about, she’s gonna keep calling your bluff” opens up the briskly funk of “Buffalo,” telling the stories of a man going through the trials and tribulations of a relationship on this 36-minute journey. The incredible standout, “The Flight,” has Bundick surfing harmonic chords over the weeping synths that builds and builds launching into the air. Still, there are traits from his previous works that appear, despite how he alters his sound throughout.

Toro y Moi has continuously showed how great he is with his instrumentation, but it’s not too often that he gets credited for his songwriting. “Space is up for grabs/I give it to you for free,” he exhales on “Lilly,” tracing back to the heart-wrenching “So Many Details” when one can only give so much while the other abuses their commitment. Overall, his current musical approach could take many aback for those that were expecting more of the latter and “Say That,” though there are little tracks on here that will keep many from swaying and dancing on a summer’s night. The aforementioned “Buffalo” is a quick-hitting wonder of transition, “Spell It Out” sounds as if it was buried deep in Quincy Jones’ recording sessions, and “Half Dome” sneaks out as a hidden gem on the long car travels to play on repeat.

For those that caught on to the Toro y Moi train at his most electronic, listening to this album would take a lot of time to digest, though it would inevitably leave you all but satisfied. Longtime fans would really relate this to his earlier works from June 2009 or more recently, his Les Sins project but with less synths. It’s an album that can be better if performed live, but with other acts that can recreate the garage psychedelic style much better these days, this comes off as a little too tame, no pun intended.

Much of the experimentation through the creation of Toro y Moi could have left many of his fans spoiled and wanting for him to push the envelope here. With What For?, he instead keeps himself even more low-key turning the clock back. It sounds like it was the music he always wanted to make or rather now confident enough at this stage in his career to do so. He’s earned that, and hopefully, it leads for him to make something next level once he settles into his artistic maturity.