Walk into your local Forever 21, American Eagle, what have you, and you’re sure to feel the breeze from the adolescence blowing by you. Being a fan of these clothing retailers, you learn to really embrace the “vibe” they aim to send off. Cool clothing for cool kids who listen to cool music, nothing wrong with that. For some time early in the decade, these stores, and their respective customer bases, embraced the newness behind chillwave.
One of the movement’s forefathers, Toro y Moi (aka Chazwick Bundick), has taken his synthpop cousin down a different path, incorporating a live band and indie-inspired nuances to his rapport. On What For?, Toro y Moi pulls out fancy indie rock grooves on a record that’ll provoke enjoyment, but little else beyond that.
There’s a sort of dreamy aura in the air through this record. Tailored on 70s-esque funk and rock vibes, Toro y Moi weaves around different genres and sounds to make something that stands out from the crowd. Bundick takes sights and sounds from a time far-gone and brings them into his colorful palette inspired by sunny days on the beach. Not shying away from slight idiosyncrasy and vintage gusto, What For? manages to take the live band behind Bundick and bring it into the light. It’s a decidedly indie record, with taps of funk, psychedelic brushes, and funk/classic pop inspired rhythms and melodies.
It isn’t a blistering set of variety-ridden musical attacks, as Toro y Moi move things along at their own pace on this record. Things move along steadily, with the band wanting us to sit back and relax to the sights and sounds of What For?. Songs like “Buffalo”, “Ratcliff” and “Half Dome” are steady burns, looking to take the listener through a soundscape of synths, live band, and instrumental interludes that are simple, yet flowing. The latter’s repeated refrain of “You must be waiting” takes the song through its coda, with its simple melodic line countering its light and layered musical tower.
Other than that, we see slick guitar riffs kicking off “Spell It Out”, equally dense bass and modulation sounds on “Lilly”, and sunny ambiance with heavy instrumentation and old-fashioned vocal harmonies to kick off the record on “What You Want”. Each song here sits pretty on What For?, not suggesting anything as distinct as vintage 70s pop, electronic indie rock or raw funk infused rock. We see little bit of all of this, and some more too, but Toro y Moi don’t confine themselves to one vision or sound, rather their vision is being able to execute all of these styles to some degree.
The agenda is good vibes and fun music, and it’s done to a pretty strong extent here. Given this, What For? is nothing more than some casual listening, as it doesn’t totally capture any sort of uniform musical aspiration. Weaving around different means of eclectic, accessible, full-band music, the record does a lot, but doesn’t really have a lot to say. Toro y Moi show their ability to write songs of various sorts, but it doesn’t really stretch anywhere close to the point of being particularly engrossing. Everything fits its appropriate mold, and the sound isn’t bad, it just speaks to some untapped sounds that could be thoroughly examined, but are rather just scratched at the surface.