Toro Y Moi
Anything In Return
Chaz Bundick said his next Toro Y Moi record would be pop -- and he delivered. In his own strange way.
No one thought this would be pop in the Top 40 sense, but some connection elements can be heard. What Anything In Return became sounds like chillwave. It's made more accessible with hooks and vocals that are central to a track -- and not just another instrument with a minor role.
The whole album is heavy on long, repeated chords from the keys and Bundick's voice sometimes mimics that limited range and repetition. But this time, there's a melody to follow and a sense of momentum. "Say That," one of the first singles off the record, finds a sweet spot between the drone and the pop. Bundick hits that mark again on "So Many Details," with hypnotizing chillwave-type production, underlying a melody that dances somewhere between pop and R&B.
On the farther ends of the spectrum, there's "Cake" and "Harm In Change" -- the former love song with lyrics so direct and sugary, they could belong to a boy band, and the latter's constantly building layers creating an off-kilter tension.
It's what Bundick (usually) does very well, knotting up so many ideas that you wonder how or if he can even keep track of each thread. Anything In Return isn't as radical a departure as you might have expected from all the pop talk, but it shows that he can still manage the knots and string a catchy melody through it all.
-- Ashley Dean
Ra Ra Riot
Synths. That's the word on Beta Love, Ra Ra Riot's first record since the departure of cellist Alexandra Lawn. It's an accurate, if simplistic, description, and it's what the band wants.
The now-foursome hasn't gone totally electro-pop or anything. They're just leaning much more and the energy is pretty infectious. It's pulsing in the syncopated drum machine claps of "Binary Mind," the insistent synth punches on "Beta Love" and the "Dance With Me" chorus, "Come and dance with me, pretty sweet fool / I wanna be your toy."
"When I Dream" is the high point. Ra Ra Riot blends the old string-heavy sound with the new danceable one. It's captivating.
But the lows come on songs like "Is It Too Much," where the robotic vocals and dissonant, crashing production make the listener feel the band trying to be edgier. It's just uncomfortable. The group does a little better in that vein with a buzzing, throbbing and pattering minimal beat on "What I Do For You"
The record is buoyed by the catchy stuff. "For Once" and "Angel Please" are both very catchy. They also feature nice little moments fom Rebecca Zellers on violin -- and make you crave more strings. Just a little more of what Ra Ra Riot used to be would be lovely.
Beta Love doesn't sound much different from anything you've heard before, but it sounds like the band is having fun.
-- Ashley Dean