(Carpark Records, out Fri 18 Jan 2019)
Toro y Moi’s new album Outer Peace is an atmospheric, pop-driven and decidedly cool iteration of this established chillwave artist’s sound. Outer Peace takes a blasé, dance pop-y and almost commercial tone and turns it on its head to talk about, among other things, the gig economy, housing markets and a general feeling of uncertainty – at the same time as socks and sandals and Coachella – cleverly encapsulating and criticizing the millennial experience. It’s hard to tell whether to laugh along with him or feel bad for him, but this tension and sarcasm is provocative, and it works.
Each song, only about three minutes in length, adheres almost formulaically to standard pop structures but without pushing towards catchy choruses or beat drops. Toro y Moi makes atmosphere the end goal using each track to establish a unique vibe that drops off as quickly as it came. Listening feels like getting a taste of the track rather than the whole thing.
This isn’t an album you pick a few tracks from and add to another playlist – the only probable exception being the radio single Ordinary Pleasure. Part of what makes the album is how its diverse moods and messages mingle. Toro y Moi synthesizes R&B, chillwave and disco sounds, even samples some Afro-Caribbean vibes with steel drums in Baby Drive It Down and uses auto tune reminiscent of SoundCloud rappers in Monte Carlo (feat. WET) and New House.
He hits other, more melancholy levels in Miss Me (feat. Abra) and the artist’s professed personal favourite, 50-50 (feat Instupendo), exposing a bit of the sentimental side that’s been a part of his tunes since his break-up album Causer of This in 2010. Maybe the cool-guy snark and slick beats in Outer Peace are a bit of an act.
He could be trying something on for size with Outer Peace, letting us know it with tracks like Who Am I singing “this might be my brand new sound”. He’s a little unimpressed with himself and cheeky about it too – “psychedelic oh wow”. Well in our opinion, this experiment turned out pretty sick. We’re totally here for it.