Toro y Moi

Outer Peace

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Chaz Bear never makes the same Toro y Moi record twice. He's spent a decade fine-tuning his chillwave sound, adding elements, refining, and discarding while making albums that constantly confound expectations and still deliver the songs and moods that make him a vital artist. After the narcotic, nocturnal R&B of Boo Boo, he seemingly immersed himself in Daft Punk and the DFA back catalog when putting songs together for his next record. Outer Peace kicks off with a three-song dance party. Rubbery basslines, clicking guitars, wobbly synth squiggles, Bear's open-hearted vocals, and pumping beats fuel the most ecstatic songs Bear has put to tape since his Les Sin's side project. The thunderous bassline on "Ordinary Life" is almost worth the price of admission alone, and the Acid House synth squiggles on "Fading" have a nostalgic glow. It's an impressively exciting opening, but the listener soon crashes back to reality with some late-night R&B that's reminiscent of Boo Boo, but stripped down to radio-friendly basics. "Miss Me" features lead vocals by Abra and skeletal backing and "New House" is introspective and chilly balladry. The rest of the record flits between uptempo, fun dancefloor jams ("Freelance," "Who Am I") as warm and fun as the first day of spring, and chilly, undercooked, and overwrought ballads like "Baby Drive It Down" and "Monte Carlo," which have all the trappings of modern pop, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Bear doesn't add anything distinctive or very interesting to his versions. The songs come off like bad imitations of Drake or the Weeknd and that's not something anyone needs in 2019. Subtract the handful of tracks that fall into this category and what's left is a fun, very well-crafted EP of uplifting dance music, the best Bear has made yet. Add them back and the record ends up a very mixed, somewhat disappointing bag that takes Toro y Moi to some exciting new places, but also treads familiar ground.

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