Toro y Moi wants to bring you Outer Peace. Inner turmoil, it seems, is so 2017. That’s the last time the South Carolina-born producer/singer/songwriter released an album, the moody and reclusive digital cloud that was Boo Boo.
The artist known as Chaz Bear spent most of his previous project adrift in his own thoughts, navigating a lazy river of self-doubt, crisis, and anxiety in the faces of romance and growing popularity. Ultimately, this proved to be suffocating. Outer Peace—the band’s sixth studio album—is nothing if not the first crest of sunlight on a glistening dancefloor. The sun is out, the feeling is fading away.
Listening to new music from Toro y Moi has always been like shaking the box of a Wonder Ball; the packaging is the same but you hardly ever know what prize is waiting for you on the inside. The same artist pioneering chillwave through aquatic Dilla worship on 2010’s Causers Of This traded the MIDI keyboard for guitars by 2015’s indie rock slanting What For? The steady funk grooves and heavily Auto-Tuned vocals of Outer Peace are yet another palette swap for an artist dead set on putting his analog/digital fascination to work.
Deep basslines anchor sunny synths throughout Outer Peace, coaxing a more playfully funny side out of Toro y Moi. “Mystic staring at his phone for oneness / Silver or black mirror, what’s the difference?” he asks on the undeniable bop “Freelance,” a blatant ode to the side hustle—the Millennial's poison of choice—that shreds the idea of technology as any kind of burden.
“Technology is allowing people to become creative at home and become almost like entrepreneurs just from their desks," he told NPR about Outer Peace. "I felt like that's who I really wanted to connect with [on this album]—the people that are grinding behind the computer in a creative way." It’s refreshing to hear technology mentioned as a tool for happiness instead of just another Black Mirror episode waiting to happen.
This connection is made in funky spurts, like on tracks “Ordinary Pleasure” and “Who Am I,” which recall the pivot to disco that was Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories as much as any recent rap album, while the hollow vocals and spacey production of “New House” uses Siri-esque vocals to find the humor in the anxiety of... Moving into a new house: “I just want a nice shower / I been feeling so crowded / My bad, I think I saw your text / My bad, I sent my new address.”
The blueprint for Outer Peace is curiosity and movement and finding reasons not to stay locked away from the outside world.
Existing in a world where world leaders serve McDonald’s on $500K silver platters and cable news delivers a new form of cataclysm to the palm of your hand every minute of every hour can feel like a chore. Instead of complaining, however, Chaz Bear found time to grind something sweet out of the anxieties of 21st-century living. The music isn't groundbreaking or life-changing, but Outer Peace is a brisk album that finds the silver linings threading the analog and digital worlds and stretches them to widescreen. But most importantly, it’s a stoooooone groove, baby.
Standout Track: "Ordinary Pleasure"
Best Bar: "Life is only wishing we could load it / Level up, you've got to make a bonus"
Best Moment: The album cover. I mean, just look at that beauty.