On "Anything in Return," the artist playing One Eyed Jacks Tuesday is less chill.
[Updated] Anything in Return continues the broadening of Toro Y Moi's vision. Cool, airy synths and clicking grooves are still prominent in Chaz Bundick's sound, but his songs are often truly songs this time around. His voice doesn't simply provide a point for human contact with the tracks; it's the reason for them. It isn't his strongest instrument, but it's easily strong enough, and its slightness gives the album a clearer humanity. You don't have to imagine a face behind the laptop on Anything in Return; his voice presents a guy negotiating his place in love and life with hope, uncertainty and a little melancholy reserve.
The album starts with a very immediate series of songs, and "Grown Up Calls" and "Cake" are overt dance pop nods, albeit on his understated terms, which gives them charm as he sidles up to the soul man stance and does what he can to inhabit it. Those songs stand out because they're well-constructed with compelling hooks, and because there are also subtle exercises in mood and genre for contrast. "Touch" is the best of that bunch with a clicking, almost retro percussion track that frames a pillowy bossa nova. "Studies" and "High Living," on the other hand, get a little too subtle and try to fly on texture when stronger melodies or grooves might elevate the pieces above chillout ambience.
Toro Y Moi's ambition is clearest when heard over the course of albums as it moves apace with his exploration and expansion of his talents. Anything in Return is not only successful on its own, but as a preview of could easily come in another album or two.
Toro Y Moi plays One Eyed Jacks Tuesday night with Wild Belle. Tickets are on sale now.
Updated February 5, 8:57 a.m.
The "High Living" video was added after initial publication.