The elaborate horror fed to you through CNN push notifications on your iPhone lock screen clashes painfully with the insignificant minutiae of your own daily life, and you’ve had it. To try and escape, you hold your breath for as long as you can, and the corners of your vision start to blacken. Before you’re out, you wobble toward a nice tree to lay underneath—an oak, maybe a ginkgo? The world’s your oyster, and it doesn’t really matter.
Your eyes crust open a number of hours later, and, to your delight, the leaves have been replaced by various pastel shades of something that looks like smoke, but isn’t. The floor on which you lie is as smooth and hard as a marble, but looks and smells like sorbet. You grab your hair to find it’s been replaced with bubblegum tinsel, and your body filled with the multi-color wires you saw beneath the sheer plastic surface of the Game Boy you had as a kid. White patent leather roller skates are where your feet should be, and as you hobble onto their neon wheels, you begin to realize you weigh nothing. You skate around the room, and somebody’s laughing words into your ear, nibbling on it occasionally—you don’t want them to stop, and they don’t. There are no walls, but if there were they’d be made of 35mm film in various stages of development. You’re inside of Boo Boo, Toro y Moi’s fifth studio album.
This is the kind of space Chaz Bear (fka Bundick) has constructed for us to crawl inside. In a personal statement released through Carpark Records, the album’s label, Bear cites everyone from Frank Ocean to Travis Scott to Gigi Masin as his influences, attributing their common thread of genius to “their attention to a feeling of space, or lack thereof,” stating “I decided that I wanted to make a Pop record with these ideas in mind.” And he did; he created an indefinable space. And you want to feel like you’re gliding along inside of it forever. Believe me, I overnight shipped a pair of roller skates after my fourth listen to Boo Boo, entirely prompted by the way it made me feel.
Bear has been expertly crafting spaces since his successful but short-lived late 2000s pioneering of chillwave, but freed from its pretensions—and through its lean into a pop and disco sound— he’s shamelessly showcasing his signature blend of nostalgia and wide-eyed freedom in the most effective and appropriate way for 2017. The album opens with “Mirage,” where Bear squeals out over unregulated, ambient bubbles of synth: “Ayyyye just want everybody to have a good time! I really do!” a promise he carries out over 12 tracks. They’re filled with pop-y vocals and contagious hook after contagious hook, from the gritty mumbles of “Window” to the softer ambient breaths on “Pavement” and “Don’t Try.”
With a catalogue of music that relies on an expansive electronic instrumental palette and an obvious penchant for pastel soft ’80s aesthetics, it just makes sense for Toro y Moi to make a hook-y discopop album. Bear partially achieved this reinvention on his last studio album, 2015’s What for? which proved he’s far more capable of a range of diverse sound than the “chillwave” label boxed him into. But Boo Boo makes it apparent that Bear found the confidence and finesse to thrive on pop in same the carefree manner he’s always been known for, and good at.
Playfully, Toro y Moi’s statement included definitions of “Boo Boo,” most notably:
noun (pl. booboos) informal
- a mistake. "you could make a big booboo if you leap to any drastic conclusions."
- a minor injury, such as a deadly car crash.
And while this is an intentionally hilarious understatement, it seems to sum up the album quite nicely. No matter the content, a sensual carefreeness is really what makes and unites the album, a refreshing take on even the darker things around us. In Toro y Moi’s world everything—the anxieties on “Inside My Head,” the yearning on “Girl Like You,” the corny and grandiose comparisons on “Mona Lisa”—is a passing breeze. Sure, some breezes are warmer, icier, more intense, but they’re all breezes and they’re all passing. Somehow, the lack of seriousness combined with a light touch of pop sensibilities creates a perfect storm for everything to feel alright. It’s precisely the climate for the type of world you want to crawl into and stay a while.