Arts & CultureMusic

Review: Toro Y Moi delivers a grab bag of goodies with side project, Les Sins


Chaz Bundick’s strongest suit is his pop craftsmanship. On the albums he creates as Toro Y Moi, Bundick wraps generous helpings of reverb and phasers around pop songs, crafted with a light, almost Beatles-like touch. So it’s interesting to see what he does with the pop element stripped away. Michael, Bundick’s first album as Les Sins, provides an interesting context to his Toro Y Moi work, and it’s also a pretty great listen on its own.

There’s only one pop moment on Michael, and it’s “Why,” a joyful, almost Michael Jackson-like slice of vintage dance-pop.  It’s an incongruous radio single par excellence, in the manner of Disclosure’s “Latch” (from Settle) or Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (from Nothing Was The Same). That it’s surrounded on either side by acres of disjointed experiments may be a disappointment for some.

But Les Sins is a side project, and if the stakes were higher, it would be underwhelming. Free of the pressure to follow up three great albums, Bundick decided to craft something that could be taken at face value. The incongruity of “Why” may have been for the better. The less Bundick reminds audiences of his day job, the more capable his music is of standing out on its own. (That guest singer Nate Salman sang “Why” suggests Bundick was aware of this.)

Michael is an outlet for everyone Bundick wants to be but Toro Y Moi. There’s shades of Nicolas Jaar’s Zen-room techno, and sublime opener “Talk About” recalls Luomo’s almighty house classic Vocalcity. The dancier tracks are the strongest, most notably “Talk About” and the luscious Italo disco pastiche “Bellow.” Other experiments don’t work as well, like the cop-show throwaway “Sticky” and the confusing deep house/hair metal hybrid “Bother.”

But Michael‘s slippery approach to genre experimentation allows the individual parts to slide together into a cohesive, 40-minute whole. If Bundick had favored one style over the others, Michael‘s more capricious moments might impede the album’s progress. But Bundick mixes things up throughout the tracklist to keep listeners on their toes.

Michael is an inconsistent, indulgent record, overflowing with ideas and ping-ponging between genres with little regard for logic. But it can’t really be faulted for any of this given its pet-project nature and consistent listenability (I find it an easier listen than Toro Y Moi’s latest, the overlong Anything In Return). Even its worst moments are interesting, and at its best it triggers pleasure centers as well as any of Bundick’s pop songs. Michael isn’t a masterpiece, but I’ll definitely be listening to it a lot in the future.

Follow Daniel Bromfield on Twitter @bromf3

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Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield

Daniel Bromfield is a writer for the Arts & Culture desk of the Emerald, specializing in music. He maintained the SF Rebirth blog in San Francisco from 2010-2013, and his work has appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, KWVA, and the Oregon Voice.