Toro Y Moi

The product of a move from South Carolina to Berkeley, CA and the subsequent extended separation from loved ones, Toro Y Moi's third full-length, Anything in Return, puts Chaz Bundick right in the middle of the producer/songwriter dichotomy that his first two albums established. There's a pervasive sense of peace with his tendency to dabble in both sides of the modern music-making spectrum, and he sounds comfortable engaging in intuitive pop production and putting forth the impression of unmediated id. The producer's hand is prominent—not least in the sampled "yeah"s and "uh"s that give the album a hip-hop-indebted confidence—and many of the songs feature the 4/4 beats and deftly employed effects usually associated with house music. Tracks like "High Living" and "Day One" show a considerably Californian influence, their languid funk redolent of a West Coast temperament, and elsewhere—not least on lead single, "So Many Details"—the record plays with darker atmospheres than we're used to hearing from Toro Y Moi. Sounding quite assured in what some may call this songwriter's return to producerhood, Anything in Return is Bundick uninhibited by issues of genre, an album that feels like the artist's essence.

Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Chaz Bundick has been toying with various musical projects since early adolescence. Having spent his formative years playing in punk and indie rock acts, his protean Toro Y Moi project has been his vessel for further musical exploration since 2001. During his time spent studying graphic design at the University of South Carolina, Chaz became increasingly focused on his solo work, incorporating electronics and allowing a wider range of influences—French house, Brian Wilson's pop, 80s R&B, and Stones Throw hip hop—to show up in his music. By the time he graduated in spring 2009, Chaz had refined his sound to something all his own, and music journals across the board touted his hazy recordings as the sound of the summer, and he released his debut album, Causers of This in early 2010.

Since then, Bundick has proven himself to be not just a prolific musician, but a diverse one as well, letting each successive release broaden the scope of the Toro Y Moi oeuvre. The funky psych-pop of 2011's Underneath the Pine evinced an artist who could create similar atmospheres even without the aid of source material and drum machines. His Freaking Out EP, a handful of singles and remixes, and a retrospective box-set plot points all along the producer/songwriter spectrum in which he's worked since his debut, and Anything In Return is another exciting offering that shows he's still not ready to settle into any one genre.

Caveman-a five-man vibe collective from NYC-released their first album in 2011. As first albums go, CoCo Beware was something akin to a moody statement of intent, a blueprint for a band quickly learning how to create horizon-wide rock songs that were equal parts intimate and expansive. Initially self-released and later snatched up by Fat Possum for re-release in early 2012, the record brims over with four-part harmonies, crystalline guitar lines, and tracks that see-sawed between echoey lullaby ("A Country's King of Dreams") to shoegaze-by-way-of classic-FM-radio sprawl ("Old Friend"). The album quickly elevated Caveman from local band to watch to a sizable touring draw and formidable live act, as evidenced by stints on the road with the likes of The War on Drugs and Built to Spill. Despite being the work of a brand new band, CoCo Beware displayed a kind of Zen-like ease. It was the sound a five friends settling into a nice groove; the music that happens when, for whatever reason, a lot of seemingly disparate elements finally fall into place.
On their self-titled sophomore album Caveman stretch their legs in a number of different, albeit cohesive, directions. While the dreaded second album experience tends to be fraught for many bands, in the case of Caveman it proved to be the opposite. Having ridden a fast-growing wave of support for CoCo Beware-which, after two years of touring, ultimately culminated in a series of big hometown NYC shows-recording a follow up proved to be a genuine good time for the band.
"We all went up to Jimmy's grandmother's place in New Hampshire," says singer Matthew Iwanusa. "That's where the new record kind of started. It was literally the attic of her barn, lit up by Christmas lights. We'd all sit in this one room together and one by one we'd all go into the bathroom and record ourselves making the most psycho noises possible. It actually felt kind of like a weird breakthrough. We were all confident and comfortable enough with each other to try out these experiments, which extended itself into the making of the new record...which is really just an evolution of this vibe that we'd been cultivating for long time."
With that, the guys holed up in Brooklyn's Rumpus Room to start recording in earnest with Nick Stumpf (who produced the band's debut album) and Albert Di Fiore behind the controls. They routinely turned out all the lights in the studio and "vibed out the space" while recording, which makes sense given the warm, big room feeling that saturates the record. The album is a kind of sonic microcosm-a series of emotional yet tough mini-narratives operating within the same quixotic musical universe.
It's fair to say that the songs on Caveman benefited from a solid year of touring on the band's part. "We really learned how to play together," says keyboardist Sam Hopkins, "the shorter songs from the first record got longer and longer when we played them live. We learned how to stretch ourselves in different ways." As a result, the guitars on Caveman are bigger and more expansive, the rhythm section is tighter and more adventurous, the keyboards more opaque and pronounced. Like a marriage between Tangerine Dream, late period Slowdive, and Lindsey Buckingham, tracks like their new single "In the City" and "Ankles" boast synth lines that sound simultaneously retro and futuristic, while "Pricey" and "Never Want to Know" overflow with guitar sounds that could have miraculously floated off an old Cure album. (It should be noted that James Carbonetti, the band's primary guitar player, also happens to be one of the most highly regarded guitar makers in New York City.) And while Caveman's music could certainly operate on the level of dreamy soundscape and still be excellent, the depth of feeling in front man Matthew Iwanusa's lyrics helps weave the songs deeply into your memory. As is the case with many a band on the rise, the price of popularity often comes at the surprise expense of everyone's own personal life; a topic that fuels many of the record's best tracks. When Iwanusa sings Where's the time to waste on someone else's life? on "Where's the Time" it's hard not to read between the lines. Wonder and regret seem to fuel the record in almost equal measure.
"We all got so close since the making of the last record," explains Carbonetti, "Eventually it was like all of our lives were kind of blending together and several of us found ourselves going through the same kinds of struggles in our personal lives. We also realized that we all kind of loved each other-that we'd passed the friend test-and that we all just wanted to hang out together all the time, basically. All of those feelings eventually bled into the record we ended up making."
The words "dreamy" and "cinematic" and "vibe" might be some of the most lazily overused descriptors in the music-writers lexicon, but it's hard to think of another contemporary band that so completely embraces those terms as both an adjective for what they do and as a goal for the art they are trying to make. "A lot people don't relate to the idea of cinematic music-something that sounds like a film soundtrack-but I love that notion," says Iwanusa. "I love music that conjures a mood, sets a tone, and inspires a certain kind of visual. I hope people can get that from this record: a sound that accompanies this big ship flying through the trees, this big, crazy light that just fills up the sky."

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Toro Y Moi with Caveman

Tuesday, February 18 · Doors 8:00 PM at Grand Central - Miami