Review Summary: This ain't willie nelson music.
Toro Y Moi is a special kind of artist. He combines elements of usually drab styles (elevator music, 80’s AM radio) and melds them into the kind of song that defines you for a period of time ("Elise"). His lyrics are vague enough to be universally relatable but intimate enough to reach a rare kind of poignancy where you hang on every word. His debut, Causers Of This
, serves as kind of palette of the many different styles and techniques that make up the Toro Y Moi sound. There’s the uber-elevator funk of the title track, the cloaked harmonies of "Blessa", the understated pop of "You Hid". More importantly, however, the album introduces the Toro Y Moi production aesthetic, a more defining aspect than anything listed previously.
On Causer of This
, Toro, aka Chaz Bundwick drowns you. There are no simple songs here, no skeletal arrangements, no lonely songs sung over sparse piano. Instead, you have layers upon layers of jazzy keys and hazy synths all drenched in reverb and coated with a kind of laptop produced gloss that complements these jams way more than any studio time would. One might think all this sound is a mask for shoddy songwriting, but this is miles from the truth; Causers of This is a singer-songwriter album posing as a producer’s. The first three quarters of "Fax Shadow” are dominated by a warped vocal sample-It Hurts So Good Inside
-chopped animatedly that seems detached at first. But the final quarter sees the song crescend into a haunting melody with an equally chilling stanza-I don't want to talk about him/
And how he wasn't shy/Don't tell me anymore about what you had/I know you're different now from what I had
-masked by Chaz’s ethereal drawl.
Some say that Chaz’s voice is devoid of emotion. In fact, his voice was an early turn-off for me as well. But I started realizing this was the producer in Bundwick. Instead of making his vocals the guiding force of the song, he uses it as another layer in his mini-symphonies. There are some exceptions, like on “Low Shoulder”, where the hook (Sorry for the others/That was us for the last five years/Now it's over and it's getting better/That's how we lived/Now we're living different/Now it's over and it's getting better
) is a downright banger. But for the most part, the catchy sing-a-longs and piercing harmonies of Underneath The Pine are missing, or at least undeveloped. Instead, it’s the textures and melodies that sink into your head. The lyrics attach themselves last.
The last thing anyone should see Causers Of This as is a footnote. It’s a complete work of its own, and a masterful debut. The fact that Bundwick was able make anything that’s topped this is the real feat. The future's only looking brighter.