On his new album, titled Outer Peace, chillwave paragon Toro y Moi offers an assortment of danceable tracks that tastefully expand his sound to include shades of R&B, house, and hip-hop.
Chaz Bear, who operates under the musical moniker of Toro y Moi, has drawn from an eclectic variety of influences as an artist thus far. While making his 2011 album Under the Pine, Bear listened to space disco and horror movie soundtracks, citing techno-funk pioneer Mandre and French film composer François de Roubaix, as influences upon the creation of the album. Conversely, Toro y Moi’s 2017 album Boo Boo was colored by the space-conscious proclivities of contemporary artists like Travis Scott, Frank Ocean and Daft Punk.
Given his history of continuously incorporating a breadth of genres into his music, it comes as no surprise that Toro y Moi mixes in new ideas and sounds into his music on Outer Peace. This time around, Bear continues exploring the sounds of modern hip hop. On “Monte Carlo,” Bear drenches his voice in autotune to achieve a Travis Scott-esque vocal warble, and the accompanying instrumental features trap hi-hats and trunk-rattling bass. The track showcases Bear’s ability to draw ideas from other genres while maintaining artistic integrity; it sounds less like an approximation of a radio chart topper and more like an advancement of Bear’s sonic range.
“New House” features a more laid-back R&B saunter, with pulsing synth lines and sparse drum patterns. Bear modulates his voice to a high pitch as he sings the song’s hook, “I wanna brand new house/Something I cannot buy.” It’s an effect reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s seminal 2016 album Blond, in which Ocean experiments with voice pitch effects to create haunting R&B ballads like “Nikes.” Yet, once again Bear avoids mere imitation by including his unique lyrical style and future-funk synth palette.
While Toro y Moi experiments with many contemporary sounds on Outer Peace, the album pulls equally from the trappings of 80’s R&B, house, and electronic dance music. The album’s lead single “Ordinary Pleasure” bounces with a bubbly funk baseline and shines with the glossy glamour of an Evelyn King record. Lyrically, however, Bear lampoons the stereotypes of classic funk and R&B music. “Does sex even sell anymore/I feel like I’ve seen it all” Bear queries in the song’s verse.
It’s this enduring sense or earnesty that separates and elevates Toro y Moi from the crowd. Each song, while clear and diverse in its influences, is undoubtedly a product of Bear’s personality, tastes, and experiences. On “Freelance,” Bear claims that he no longer wears shoes and socks- he prefers to wear sandals. “I can’t tell if I’m hip/Or getting old,” he sings as he reflects on his choice of footwear. Bear seems to lean toward the latter option; he expresses a tired sentiment on “Who Am I” as he sings, “Who cares about the party/I came to see the band play.”
Hip or old, though, Toro y Moi continues to be one of the most original voices in electronic indie music, and Outer Peace is a firm affirmation of this. Bear’s versatility and honesty come in at full force on the record, and the ending result is a record chock full of musical diversity and delight.
4 out of 5 stars.