Review Summary: "Don't try to make it more than it is."
Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi has always bared the title of “godfather” of Chillwave with reluctance. Putting together beats in his bedroom, he was never consciously trying to become the face of a genre, one that’d have him lumped together with artists like Neon Indian and Washed Out, he was just making his
music. With his latest release, Boo Boo
, he does just that- he’s still getting lost in his atmospheric soundscapes, but the instances in which he uses the instrumentation to emphasize and obscure meaning, is refreshing.
The atmosphere on Boo Boo
is unflinchingly serene. Even when he mixes in the lo-fi funk of “Mirage” and the synth pop “Mona Lisa,” there’s a tranquil sadness that permeates the sound. With this backdrop, Bundick spends the entirety of the album reflecting on fractured relationships. Some have been affected by distance, while others are simply the result of people changing. He captures a fleeting moment on a “Windows,” emphasizing the awkward limbo that follows an argument in a car with tick-tock percussion. “Labyrinth” tries to do the same thing with a similar situation, but goes so far with its echoing aquatics that it sounds cartoonish, to the effect of Mario 64’s underwater theme, “Dire, Dire Docks” (Don’t worry, this a nerd safe space).
“Don’t Try” is one of the many contemplative tracks, but the way its meaning morphs with repeated listens makes it one of the strongest cuts on the album. The reverb soaked percussion and ominous synths culminate in a feeling of being lost, but the chorus, “Don’t try to understand what you are/Don’t try to make it more than it is,” can feel strangely liberating on the first couple of listens. Taken as a message to embrace simplicity, the song is a lot more optimistic. But considering the fractured relationship addressed in the verse, it can be taken as a condescending comment to someone you’re disappointed in. If that wasn’t enough, the sad but hopeful piano tone obscures the song's meaning even more.
For the most part, Bundick avoids sappiness when detailing romance, but he does falter on “Girl Like You.” It gets a bit cheesy as a summer romance track, but the vocals are delivered with such a wide-eyed innocence that it’s easy to be won over. If anything, the tracks that are more troublesome are the ones that come off too light. “Embarcadero” is a pleasant instrumental but would fare better as an interlude, and “WIWWTW” is too melodically similar to other tracks to justify its spot as a closer. It also doesn’t help that the latter’s coda, featuring spoken word by Madeline Kenny, feels like a last-minute effort to make the song conceptual. These songs still fit the album’s overall mood, but they won’t be making anyone’s playlist anytime soon.
feels both intimate and amorphous. The tracks give us a glimpse into the inner workings of an artist’s thoughts and memories, but the lens in which we see them isn’t always clear. You know what you’re seeing is personal, but which aspects are real"