For an artist that became known as somewhat of a trendsetter back in 2009, with the birth of a notorious genre test-tube baby 'Chillwave', it's encouraging to see Chaz Bundick aka Toro Y Moi paving his own way. 2011's 'Underneath The Pine' was a fine piece of experimentation, with a backing band full of actual instruments preferred to the 'one-man-and-his-laptop' style that categorised his debut 'Causers Of This'. The record also touched upon some interesting genre blurring, with funk and jazz explored over the more conceptual tracks themed primarily around the cheery subject of being buried. His follow up EP 'Freaking Out' too displayed a different side to Toro Y Moi, a more disco-centric and dizzying one that was arguably his most impressive shift to date.
With third album 'Anything In Return' Chaz very much builds on the disco from 'Freaking Out' and to an extent, the funk and overall sexiness of 'Underneath The Pine'. Primarily, the record is an upbeat pop project, delving into the world of samples and electronic grooves, touching on everything from dance music ('Say That') to 90s boyband corniness ('Cake') with mixed results. There are certainly moments on the LP that grate for all the wrong reasons, the pained attempt at falsetto on 'Studies', the annoying vocal loop on 'Say That', the Justin Bieber reminiscent 'Cake'. But, it comes apparent that this is not an album to be taken entirely seriously, Toro Y Moi hasn't crafted the kind of chin stroking "hmm isn't this a strange new genre" music people expect of him, but rather a record that he wanted to make and sounds like he had fun making.
The fun does rub off more than it turns sour luckily. 'So Many Details' with its pulsing bass and fluttering 80s sensibility is undeniably smooth and enticing. 'Rose Quartz' also treads the disco line impeccably providing the album's most spine-tingling moment, with Chaz's strained coos of "I feel weak, uh huh" sounding entirely convincing and sexy. Fun can be had elsewhere with the effortless 'Cola' which could easily have come straight off the Drive soundtrack, and the tropical bombast of 'High Living' borders on lounge music but has enough going for it musically to narrowly avoid soundtracking millions of elevators and cruise chip adverts worldwide.
This perhaps isn't Toro Y Moi's most cohesive work, but the sense of fun and artist determination behind many of these tracks is the prevailing factor between an interesting art-pop project and a damp and corny flop of a record.