When an artist is associated with a particular scene or sound, they often find themselves amongst a testing fork in the road. Either they stick to their signature style, and risk sounding all too repetitive, or they grow as a musician, putting themselves out there as a vulnerable newcomer, testing the waters of what sounds unique and what sounds awful. Back in 2012, Chaz Bear – AKA Toro Y Moi – was tossed into the scene of "chillwave" with Washed Out and Neon Indian. And for a while, that worked for him. Chillwave was cutting edge, surely to be the next fad of genres. But as time passed, fellow scenesters kept pumping out records all-too-similar to their previous efforts. Time had tested chillwave, and its fate was sealed due to its unvaried and unsparingly repetitious ways.

As his scene found itself searching aimlessly for inspiration, Bear was much more focused than his peers, expanding his sound to something that could cross numerous cultures, genres, and styles. Ripping through space disco, liquid funk, and electro-boogie, Bear created an identity for himself that put his days of chillwave in the rearview mirror. As these influences have been simmering, Bear’s latest release for Carpark Records Boo Boo is a large step forward, both audibly and visually; a short film accompanied this album – shot in one take from the back of Bear's car, it tours the Bay Area of California, where he currently resides.

Right from the start, Boo Boo is vastly different than its antecedents. Reminiscent of a bong-clearing Blood Orange, Boo Boo channels 80s romanticism with untimely bass slaps, gently set ambience, and Miami Vice-era dance floors. It’s arguably his most intoxicating set of tracks, with a concept that’s more diverse than anything Bear has released prior. On the opener 'Mirage', the Blood Orange comparisons are at their peak; this is followed by the stripped down 'No Show', which exposes Bear’s vocal vulnerabilities. Meanwhile 'Mona Lisa' captures the 80s aesthetic appropriately, its sense of sensuality being much more apparent than the previous tracks. As Boo Boo‘s dreamlike, velvet escapade flows strongly both thematically and musically, 'Labyrinth' finds Bear retreating back to his chillwave propensities, tilting his cap to his once-scene.

At its peak, Boo Boo is Toro Y Moi’s most luxurious, if not remarkably lush effort since 2011’s Underneath the Pine. Rightfully ditching the title as one-third of chillwave’s founding fathers, Toro Y Moi’s 2017 return is a neo-contemporary statement that makes old sounds new, dancing around your head like a racquetball match. If one thing hasn’t been clear about 2017, it’s that we desperately need more artists like Chaz Bear.