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Toro y Moi – Outer Peace (Review)

Earlier in 2019, songwriter and producer Chazwick Bundick, under the moniker Toro y Moi, dropped his sixth full-length studio record, Outer Peace. This release comes 10 years after both his graduation from the University of South Carolina, and the release of his debut LP Causers of This on Carpark Records. Bundick was born and raised in Columbia, SC, and in high school, performed in an indie rock project called The Heist & The Accomplice before creating music as Toro y Moi. On Outer Peace, Bundick manages a slick pastiche of glittery funk, cheeky techno-inspired textures, and contemporized 80s pop, compelling even the most cynical indie fan to at least tap their foot.

Outer Peace’s production walks a fine line between squeaky clean pop and modern indie, offering listeners a unique blend that is equal parts garage and studio. In “Fading,” the album’s opening track, listeners are treated to a delicate, trance-inducing drum loop paired with warbling synths that meander from left to right and betray Bundick’s taste for musical contradiction. It would be hard to imagine the tropical house-inspired rhythms on “Baby Drive It Down” coexisting with its wispy indie-esque vocals, but they manage to occupy the same space without stepping on each others toes.

Lyrically, Bundick gives listeners another dichotomy, pairing the hyper-stylized, tastefully bubblegum production on the record with themes of disillusionment and disconnectedness. The speaker on Outer Peace seems detached, jaded even. In “Ordinary Pleasure” he sings “Does sex even sell anymore / I feel like I’ve seen it all / maybe I’m just old / maybe I’m just bored.” Later on the record, in “Who I Am,” Bundick writes “who cares about the party? / I came to see the band.” These, along with the rest of the track’s lyrics are briefly interrupted by recordings flight attendants speaking to passengers before landing.

By placing “Who I Am’s” lyrics with those particular in-flight samples, Bundick is connecting the increasing tedium of partying with the monotony of a transient lifestyle, and by placing it on a tracklist with “Ordinary Pleasure,” he connects it even more broadly to the industry as a whole. These songs, and the rest of Outer Peace, reveal a level of thematic coherence that wouldn’t be as easily achieved by a less competent songwriter

Despite its merits, a few of Outer Peace’s tracks don’t quite reflect the same audacious creativity as their contemporaries. “Monte Carlo’s” trap-inspired percussion loops and hyperbolically tuned vocals feel like they could be snuck into any hip hop or pop-R&B album released in the last few years without raising any eyebrows. While well executed, the track feels less adventurous than its genre-bending counterparts.

Toro y Moi’s most recent release is, for the most part, a bold and refreshing attempt to fuse disparate textures and themes into a tight, well-crafted package, earning it an extra chilly 4 out of 5 stars.