“Maximize all the pleasure.” —Toro y Moi, “Ordinary Pleasure”
We all want to feel better about something. We’re all liable to wish things slow down and simply work out. We’re all chasing down peace in whatever form feels most natural to us. Aside from love—which can bring you peace, but obfuscates my point—peace might be the most sought-after feeling in our understood range of emotion. If we are a striving people, then the pursuit of peace is one of our biggest drivers.
So how wonderful, then, that someone as talented and eccentric as Chaz Bear, better known as Toro y Moi, has taken to turning peace into an accessible, endearing, and sometimes cute thing that we can hold close to the chest on his sixth studio album, Outer Peace. The ways in which Bear achieves this tangible sense of peace makes his album an essential record at a time where we most often forget that things can just be good. No questions asked; no questions needed.
Perhaps the most striking element of Outer Peace—the cardinal way Bear grants us peace—is the sheer goodness of the album. There is no catch. The grooves and positive energy are absolute. Even prodding moments on “Ordinary Pleasure” and “Laws of the Universe” immediately give way to jeering highs and shimmy-inducing moments. There is a physical transference of glee from the speakers to our bodies. We cannot help but move. The danceability of the record is high, but we are not wired. We are moving to the beat of something soothing and swaddling. Across the board, the sonics are comforting as they are entertaining, making Outer Peace into a dynamic listen when the album could have easily been a monotonous and sunny bore.
Toro y Moi could have made inoffensive summer music for the winter months, but instead went the route of fascination. Though the album is straightforward and brisk, there is a clear departure between Outer Peace and other albums (Crush; The Divine Feminine) that adopt funk and synths galore. That is, there is nothing lurking in the wings. Where we so often hold our breath, waiting for the bad news to strike us down, there is no bad news on Outer Peace. Similar records trend towards suggestions of heartbreak or anxiety, but Toro y Moi is one with his anxiety (“New House”) to the point of it being a feature to endear us to him, not a monster to be feared. Our peace is never disturbed on the record, only tilted and examined before it is placed into our hands for all-time.
“Cause this world makes a lot of noise for me / Makes it hard for me to hear what I'm / thinking / Sometimes I don't understand what I say / So it's fine if you gotta get away” —Toro y Moi, “Ordinary Pleasure”
Again, Outer Peace avoids being a static record. Chaz Bear often explains why we need peace in his pursuit to bless us with the feeling. The apex of the record comes early, with “Ordinary Pleasure,” where Bear details the noisy and disruptive qualities of modern living. Too much information, too quickly, shatters any and all expectations of peace. Outer Peace is a course correction, moving at a welcome pace and forcing us to slow down and enjoy the music for what it is. Where we are liable to get lost in our thoughts, Outer Peace is freeing in how it makes us groove. The record returns us to a playfully carnal state where we are one with the music, and that becomes the escape. We escape into the peace of the album, and by record’s end, we maintain that peace into subsequent listens.
Understated and breezy, the album exists as a lesson in deep breathing and acceptance. I struggle to believe that things can come together without hardship. Maybe it was the brain tumor, but I am a natural-born skeptic and every time there is good news, my alarm goes off and I immediately begin planning for the inevitable bad news. We can say I’m as scared of good things as I am in a constant search for them. Not only is this destructive thinking, but it is also absolutely no fun. Toro y Moi does not allow me to search for bad news. Outer Peace is a wonderful inhibitor. The album even opens with a note on keeping faith on “Fading.” I do not have to give in to the compulsion and hunt for clues that everything is about to go up in smoke. Happiness can simply exist, which is what makes the hook of “Ordinary Pleasure” (“Maximize all the pleasure / Even with all this weather”) so cheeky and revolutionary.
The message is simply that maximum pleasure should be ordinary pleasure. That joy should be just that—existing without further inquiry. At the very least, we cannot be agents of our own misfortune. As much as we wish for peace, we have to know what to do with it once we have it, and the thing to do is to let it breathe. Not only does Outer Peace make peace accessible to the common person, but it also provides a lesson on how to let peace live and thrive.
So, how exactly do we let peace breathe? By turning our noses up at what does not make us happy, of course. It seems obvious, but again, were it so easy. In that breath, “Who I Am” is playfully irreverent of the social cues we all hate. It is the anthem for everyone who has ever begrudgingly attended a party. It is the anthem for every homebody that is contented dancing in their living room. There is no need to be something you are not because that is not when the peace will come to you. Peace comes when you are comfortable with yourself, comfortable enough to shrug off the party and dance alone. Peace comes when we shrug off shame and indulge in ourselves.
While we are all so wired, Outer Peace coalesces into this groovy and peaceful thing that is so damn easy. The record is superb for the very reason that it is easy listening with a distinct purpose. Chaz Bear delivered a finely layered album that gives us lasting reprieve. Making listeners dance is child’s play, but making listeners believe in the promise of stability is something altogether impressive. That's the great success of the album: it takes something sought after and abstract and makes it easy, accessible, and at times, cute.