Many people will remark that this Toro Y Moi album is different than the rest. They’re right, to a certain degree. The traditional “rock-band” instrumentation, noodly electric guitar, and the mostly sample-less musical landscape might surprise you, but upon further listening, you’ll discover that What For? is chock-full of the ingredients that make a Toro Y Moi record, just like you thought it would be.
After the long racecar “vroom!” that begins the opening track, I couldn’t help but notice that the second song, Buffalo, begins with a long synth swirl. Maybe it’s meant to reassure us that we’re listening to the right band. The track continues like a lot of TYM songs, sparse, spacey, and relaxed, but played on mostly analog instruments.
What initially drew me to Toro Y Moi was a quality of homemade-ness that existed in his music. In this day and age, “garage”-y ness or “bedroom recordings” don’t sound like quadruple-tracked acoustic guitar and vocal recordings anymore. There can be layered Moog synths, software instruments galore and perfectly tuned vocals. Chaz Bundick manages to walk the very fine line between over- and under-producing his music, holding tightly to a hard-to-pin-down DIY synth-based aesthetic that some people have dubbed (and dubbed and dubbed right into the ground) “chillwave.” As much as Bundick hates talking about chillwave, that’s the genre that sample-heavy, synthy bedroom crooner/producers inhabit.
Now, on his most rock-band album to date, the waves remain very, very chill despite the instrumentation. Bundick sings in a young man’s insistent yelp, sometimes slightly out of tune, always engaging. The electric guitars noodle through several tracks, forming a woozy, constantly shifting background with an everpresent acoustic strum, occupying the space that noisy synths did on previous TYM recordings. A little bit of classical(ish) piano appears! The lyrics stay very close to home as well, describing afternoon hikes, empty nests, the pitfalls of getting too comfortable, lost direction, and possibly a Weezer reference, although anyone can wear a sweater. You never know.
Empty Nesters is the standout track on this album, a punchy romp of late 70s road rock and biting lyrics. Smothered and covered by my high-school dreams/Call Mom and Dad because the nest is empty/and so are you, Bundick sings, imploring us ever-so-understatedly to look beyond our own college bedrooms. Take Bundick’s new Toro Y Moi album as proof: you can leave your comfort zone while still staying true to yourself.
Best Guitar Solo: “Spell it Out”
Best Lyrics: “Empty Nesters”
Best Piano Break: “The Flight”
Best Whoop: “Empty Nesters”
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