Toro y Moi: Anything in Return
by Anthony Dominguez; January 22, 2013
Although the origins of the chillwave genre go as far back as the 1970s, its popularity into the mainstream music scene didn’t happen until 2009 with releases like Washed Out’s Life of Leisure, Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms, Toro y Moi’s single Blessa, and Memory Tapes’ Seek Magic. Combining synthesizers, sampling, looping, and vocals that are overwhelmed by psychedelic beats, chillwave sought to capture fans of pop in new manners.
In 2011 chillwave was still hanging around albeit with much weaker releases. Sophomore albums by Neon Indian, Memory Tapes, and other chillwave artists were being released to mixed reviews. Many people began to believe that the genre was merely a fad, but that hasn’t stopped Toro y Moi from releasing his third album nearly two years later.
Based in South Carolina, Toro y Moi is the stage name used by recording artist and producer Chazwick Bundick. Strangely enough, Bundick doesn’t actually use any live instruments to play his music. Like many other artists who work under the electronic genre, Bundick’s primary instrument is his laptop which he uses in order to produce music that is otherwise impossible on actual instruments. This does not mean Bundick is limited in his live performances. Although it may be odd to go watch someone sing behind a computer, Bundick has successfully performed throughout multiple venues; from small clubs, to larger theaters, and even festivals held in arenas.
As their discography grows many artists seek to deviate themselves from their initial releases and begin to develop a different style. Anything in Return is a personal evolution for Toro as he distances himself from the sounds that first defined him back in his older albums Underneath the Pine and Causers of This. Causers of This was mainly chillwave driven, featuring tracks like Blessa, Minors, and Imprint After, which flowed into each other in order to give off a distinct atmosphere. Underneath the Pine exploited synth pop in order to give off an 80’s, disco, dance vibe with tracks like How I Know and Still Sound. Anything in Returns comes back with the same style heard in Underneath the Pine, but this time around Toro really let’s his music explode with the end result being an album that consists of songs that are faster and heavier while still retaining the mellow sound he’s so well known for.
The opening track Harm in Change comes off strong with Toro’s vocals really taking the charge. This track really sets the tone for the rest of the album as it seems that he’s no longer afraid of his own voice; instead of hiding it behind beats and loops, his vocals will remain in the foreground for the most part. There’s still some traces of his old school work, where he’ll allow his voice to hang back in order to form the chillwave sound he first started out, but for the most part, this album is very dance/funk driven with hints of R&B.
In terms of lyricism, Toro hasn’t changed that much. The lyrics are still short, mellow, to the point, and sung in a effeminate way. The whole album sounds like something of a love story between two people in their early twenties; it’s very naive and innocent.
Things start to get boring rather quickly. Track after track Toro doesn’t really attempt to make anything sound too different and plays it safe by sticking to the same formula. The majority of the tracks are four minutes long, but by the two minute mark, you’ll start to get the feeling of déjà vu as songs really have no progression and feel like they’re just repeating themselves. The overall sound is an album that suffers in its weak production, doesn’t take itself serious enough and feels like something that would attempt to sell itself based off a few catchy tracks rather than a whole product.
Foxygen: We are the 21st Century Peace Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
by Anthony Dominguez; January 26, 2013
Often times people will tell me that they listen to “indie”, because they’re not into “mainstream” music. When asked what type of indie music they’re into, I often receive blank stares. This is because the majority of people who go around lambasting things they deem too mainstream have no idea what indie music actually is. Indie is short for independent and is used to describe a certain genre; indie itself is not a genre so saying you listen to indie music makes no sense at all. The reason why the genre is labeled indie is, because the band is operating under a record label that is independent, which means that the record label works without funding from a major record label. An example would be post-punk revival band Interpol’s debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights. Released by the Matador Records company, which is independent, Turn on the Bright Lights can fall under the genre of indie-rock. Another example would be British, indie-pop band, The xx; who released their self-titled, debut album under Young Turks, an independent record label.
Working under the label Jagjaguwar, Foxygen is an indie-rock duo comprised of Jonathan Rado and Sam France; both hailing from the same town of Westlake, Village, California. In 2012 they released their debut, studio album, Take the Kids Off Broadway. What was most notable about this album was its distinctly, vintage sound; a sound that’s very reminiscent of much older albums such as The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground & Nico. Take the Kids off Broadway was also just jam-packed with a combination of different genres, and Foxygen did a really good job in bringing that sound out, so whether you’re a fan of albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Led Zeppelin IV, Hot Rats, or The Doors, this album will have something for you to enjoy.
Earlier this year Foxygen came back and released their second, studio album, We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. This time around, Foxygen is much more straightforward, with tracks like No Destruction having a very campy feel and lyrics that are sung in a disjointed, yet catchy method. The vintageness from the first album is still around, but there is more of a focus on psychedelic and experimental rock.
This does not mean that Foxygen has lost their ambition. Coming in at 5:50 and being the longest track on this album, On the Blue Mountain weaves its way through a plethora of sounds and influences, starting off as a blues song, turning into a rock and roll song for its chorus while having a heavy influence from bands like The Beach Boys, before it finally culminates in one screeching, energy fueled, explosion.
Shuggie, the first single off the album, begins with a very notable synth sound. From there the song becomes very down tempo, but Foxygen always has a way of surprising listeners. A song that remains the same tone for its entirety would be absolutely boring, so Foxygen is constantly switching from a lounge-like sound, to a very upbeat one that you could even dance to. What’s most interesting is the decision to change the length of each pattern, so is there no way to discern when the song will change; this manages to keep listeners refreshed while still giving them something to enjoy by reusing old sounds in a new way.
Released 3 months after Shuggie, the second single San Francisco follows the same formula that Shuggie did by being very down tempo, except there really are no changes throughout the song. The single itself is simple and very much encapsulates the lazy sound of Foxygen; this isn’t a case where lazy is bad, however. San Francisco just sounds like background music you’d be hearing at your local coffee shop.
Whereas most bands struggle through sophomore album, sloughing through different types of sound, Foxygen stuck to their guns in order to create an album that will not only please old fans but is still very much accessible for a new crowd. We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic is a solid example of where to take a sound you started off with and evolve it into something foreign, with slight ambition, and a hint of familiarity.