By Colm O’Reilly
In Toro y Moi’s sixth album, Chaz Bundick separates himself from all of his earlier projects and spends what seems like a much-needed time getting to know himself through his music. With stunning ability, Bundick incorporates synth-heavy, house and trap-infused production with his happy, yet introspective auto-tuned vocals to make an honest and enjoyable sonic experiment.
At just 10 songs lasting a little over 30 minutes, Outer Peace so gracefully evokes a mood resembling an urge to dance out problems with songs like “Freelance” and “Who I Am,” mixed with occasional thoughtfulness on songs like “New House” and “50-50.” Not only that, the songs shift energy with ease, with no desire for one song to last longer or end sooner.
While it can be said that the music is made to be danced to, Bundick’s lyrics suggest isolation of an artist from the outside world. In one of the more energetic and fun songs titled “Who I Am,” Bundick sings, “Who cares about the party/ I came to see the band play.” On another song entitled “New House,” Bundick sings, “I just want a long shower/I been feeling so crowded.” After being in the spotlight for so long, it seems that Bundick wants to experience going unrecognized again, maybe to reassess his career or to rectify the message he is trying to put across.
The implication of isolation is even reinforced by the album cover. In it, the viewer and listener sees a walled-off Bundick, keyboards and computer blocking any possible intrusion in all directions but one. The path of the viewer and listener remains clear, giving him or her a full picture of the artist himself, practicing his craft in an effort to communicate his message to the world.
Bundick’s face illuminated by a computer screen in the album cover also helps make clear the message brought up on “Freelance.” In a song that is the sonic equivalent on dancing down 5th Avenue through Park Slope, Bundick’s message is one of ever-growing weariness in technology and instant gratification.
He sings, “cloud-hidden and my whereabouts unknown/ Cazadero got me wearing all camo/ decked in Patagonia head to toe/ down for whatever, I think I let go.” Despite shouting out one of the more popular clothing brands in frat boy ensembles, Bundick mentions blending into a California town of less than 500 people. In this line and the next, he puts across to the listener that he is in need of an escape from the lifestyle he has participated in for far too long.
In being so honest with his message, Bundick provides the listener with a vivid picture of his life at the time of him writing these songs. What he enjoys, how he jokes, even how he thinks are all made evident on this masterfully crafted 10-track album.
In “Laws of the Universe,” one of the many songs with an magnetic synth and foot-tap-inducing bassline, Bundick jokes, “James Murphy is spinning at my house,” a clear reference to the LCD Soundsystem lead singer’s song “Daft Punk is Playing at My House.” On “Ordinary Pleasure,” the song starts out with what seems to be an homage to Marvin Gaye with the heavy use of the conga, resembling those from Gaye’s hit song “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).” Later on in the same song, the listener gets yet another glimpse inside the head of Bundick. “Oh this world makes a lot of noise for me/ makes it hard for me to feel what I’m thinking,” sings Bundick, making his decision to go to places like Cazadora decidedly explicable.
Chaz Bundick has managed to do something with this album not many have done before him. He has constructed something so true to himself in a way that didn’t separate himself from his listeners. His songwriting shows the listener his contemplative and sometimes introverted nature, but it does not take away from the rhythmic and dance-inducing tracks that occupy this album. In his slower songs, his and featured artists’ voices pair with the melodic trap-like beats to make a hypnotizing and attention-grabbing listening experience. Altogether, this piece of music takes up little time but leaves the listener with a strong feeling of thoughtful optimism.