Toro y Moi’s “Samantha” Is More Than Just a Pretty Face

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By Jacqueleen Eng ’19

With almost 300k likes on Facebook, Toro y Moi (given name: Chaz Bundick) deserves more. Having released a variety of projects since his debut LP Causes of This in 2010, he has proved himself as a capable producer who disregards the usual path of a maturing artist. His first release is often compared to other chillwave artists like Neon Indian, the most notable difference being his lack of interest in putting out catchy pop tunes with gripping hooks. Instead, Bundick places emphasis on the production and layering to create a sound you’d want to curl up in on a chilling Ohio evening. His later releases still hold this to be true, as Underneath The Pine retains that feeling with a bit more funk, exemplified by “New Beat”, and the later lo-fi June 2009, which sounds more like Wavves than Washed Out.

His most recent releases, Anything In Return, What For? and Samantha are substantially different. What For? – released just last spring – is more electronic and dance-able than Bundick’s previous work; for example, it features hits like “So Many Details”, a track that Brooklyn-dwelling 20-somethings can get down to on top of a rooftop bar. The album has been criticized by some for seeming to revert back to an indie rock sound one would have expected Bundick to start off with back in 2010. Samantha – released just a few weeks ago – came as a surprise to Bundick’s followers on Instagram (@lukespukashells). Providing a simple link to Zippyshare, he released a compilation of songs recorded between January 2012 and August 2015 in Berkeley, California. Das Racist’s Kool AD, Atlanta rapper Rome Fortune, longtime pal Washed Out, and prominent producer Nosaj Thing are all featured, highlighting that the 20-track Samantha has more of a hip hop sound than anything else.

“Power of Now” opens like it’s off Underneath The Pine but soon changes to a Shlohmo-like beat, whereas tracks like “Room for 1zone” and “The Usual” have distinctive thumps characteristic of trap hits. Bundick incorporates intriguing samples in “Want” (feat. Washed Out), where he includes dialogue from Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook, and in “Boo Boo Mobile”, where the repeated “damn” is reminiscent of the sample used in James Blake’s “CMYK”. Bundick manages to keep the same cushiony production listeners have been accustomed to in his previous releases, and even incorporates more 80s and jazz elements – in songs like “Prayer Hands” and “Stoned at the MOMA” – that are similar to vaporware without fully committing to the genre.

If anything, Bundick shows with this release that his production capabilities are far beyond what most acknowledge when listening to his popular songs. Whether or not this album simply served to put out songs Bundick had previously stashed away as unfit for mainstream release, it certainly varies his portfolio and might foreshadow more work or a side project in hip hop production. As a recent feature on Travi$ Scott’s “Flying High” off Rodeo, Bundick already has an influence in the industry – and Samantha proves that he can do more.

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