Seasoned producer spins fresh ‘soul-rock,’ ignites

Toro y Moi’s “What For?” illustrates deep thought through mellow tunes

By Jared Amdahl, Opinion Editor

If you have not listened to the new Toro y Moi album, you should work toward changing that.

Toro y Moi’s latest release “What For?” has shown yet another side of music the 28-year-old producer Chaz Bundick is capable of creating.

Having begun his career in 2001, Bundick has changed Toro y Moi from being a bedroom recording name for himself, into what is now a live-touring band.

And with Bundick as the main creative force behind the project, he has successfully transcended several genres of music before he released this contemporary, psychedelic-influenced soul-rock album on April 7.

“What For?” is the epitome of easy listening. Classical rock ’n’ roll chords paired with a funky bass line brings every song into a cohesive idea that makes the overall theme for the album — deep thought and relaxation.

It sounds as if the album must have been recorded in a studio filled with springtime mist that helped to catch every decibel of reverb at just the perfect pitch.

This album gets better the more it is played.

While the first track, “What You Want,” is a nice introduction to the following songs, the second half of the composition is easily the best.

It can be annoying when the first half of an album is so boring it can turn a listener off from hearing the rest.

But as soon as the fifth track “Ratcliff” begins to play, Bundick’s downtempo-based background comes out indefinitely and makes the album.

It then casually moves into the sixth song, “Lilly,” my own personal favorite.

The chorus begins to play over dreamy guitar plucking, layered with echoes of ambient sound and synthesizers.

“Everyday’s like this/ no one goes nowhere.”

The words are uttered just barely over the shallow sounds of the background instruments.

It hits a place of the soul that is too relatable.

“What For” is one of the more refreshing series of songs recorded and released in the last year.

From beginning to end, there is something Bundick is trying to portray with his music and lyrics alike.

And the answer is in the title of the album, “What For?”

Asking a rhetorical question in the title of a composition can sometimes set the stage for what can mess an album up at times — obscurity.

But Bundick makes valid points in almost every song.

Lyrical content ranges from living life and learning from mistakes to, of course, a classic love song motif at times.

Having listened to Bundick’s work throughout the last five years, it is always difficult to say where he may end up next.

Over that time period he has managed to navigate his way through the chillwave, downtempo, trip-hop and ambient music scenes successfully.

Which is what is very intriguing about this latest album — he has moved from electronic instrumentation backed by sample experimentation, to making solid live music played by a complete band.

In 2010 when I heard “Causers of This,” his first full-length album, I never would have believed he would sound like this now.

And that is a good thing in this case.