2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
Even longtime fans of Toro y Moi, who’ve followed the prolific Oakland-by-way-of-South Carolina artist as he’s explored everything from the kaleidoscopic haze of his debut, to full-throttle electro-pop, sunny guitar rock, ambient compositions and even lush hip-hop production, may be caught off guard by Boo Boo, his fifth studio album. Insular, moody, and at times abstract, Boo Boo captures sentiments rarely heard in Chaz Bear (formerly Bundick)’s work: self-doubt, loneliness, and, ostensibly, heartbreak.
Although the album begins with an upbeat sentiment—“I just wanted everybody to have a good time”—things quickly get darker from there. “No Show,” for instance, offers up a bittersweet summation of Toro y Moi’s success, delivered in a beautiful cadence—“Wasn’t even thinkin’ we were going worldwide / Figured it was better than the Southern life”—but also presents the repercussions: a partner who eventually “got fed up with my ego.” Later, “Windows” finds him acknowledging a need for a “new state of mind” and “You and I” paints an unflinching picture of Bear working obsessively to distract himself from the aftermath of a relationship.
Yet Boo Boo is also jam-packed with exquisite arrangements that provide a counterpoint for Bear’s angst and confusion. “Labyrinth” possesses the sublime pulse of the Talking Heads’ “Naïve Melody,” and lead single “Girl Like You” is a smart R&B slow-burner that culminates in a radiant piano bridge. Bear has always had an ear for minute detail, and Boo Boo is no exception.
Those looking for a party album will not find it here. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine Bear’s exuberant band even tackling these compositions live. Instead, Boo Boo is a challenging and rewarding album, capturing a restless and ambitious composer as he takes a leap of faith and brings his darker feelings into the mix.
—Max Savage Levenson