Summer 2017 sees the always welcome return of South Carolina singer-songwriter, producer and DJ, Chaz ‘Toro y Moi’ Bundick. Mixtapes notwithstanding, fifth solo studio album, Boo Boo, strongly indicates that he’s not about to drop the high standards set by all noteworthy predecessors. After satisfying his cosmic-rock palate on 2015’s What For?, Bundick is back to more soulful predilections. He has the enviable knack of hopping between his beloved genres without repeating himself.
Boo Boo’s atmospheric “I can’t believe it’s not 1986!” electro-pop and soul (with smatterings of breakers’ funk) is the blissful soundtrack to an iconic, angst-ridden teen movie that was never made. Bundick’s ever thoughtful lyrics set to synthesised vibraphone wistfulness are an 80s nostalgia-fiend’s dream (guilty as charged). It helps that the almost-31-year-old Bundick’s apprehensive-sounding vocal, with its occasional Brit inflection, is in a state of permanent adolescence. His oft-forlorn expression and camera awkwardness only enhance the poignancy.
There’s a song for nearly every conceivable narrative trajectory: infatuation (the pure pop-R&B perfection that is ‘Girl Like You’); heartache (‘Labyrinth’, and yet another 80s reference, ‘Mona Lisa’); existential crises (‘You and I’, ‘Inside My Head’, ‘WIWWTW’) and feelings of displacement. Roll credits.
On the painfully plaintive ‘No Show’, Bundick is open about the need to escape the “Southern life” of his Carolina upbringing versus being a shy kid now a little overwhelmed by international success. His clever, off-beat phrasing on the chorus shows off the understated sophistication evident in much of Bundick’s oeuvre.
Instrumental ‘Embarcadero’ is Boo Boo at its zenith, with traces of apparent influences – mid-80s Jam & Lewis, Art of Noise, hints of The Gap Band – compressed into just under three fleetingly beautiful minutes. This latest project well and truly puts Toro y Moi’s at the vanguard of the retro-sound wave.
Boo Boo is out now on Carpark Records.
If you like this artist, check out: Frank Ocean; Dornik
Image: Andrew Paynter