Back in the days of analogue radio, I had a job that meant I often had to drive through Tottenham. In those days I would be happily driving along with XFM blasting out Blur or some such when suddenly a pirate radio station would take over the airwaves and I would be treated to a minute or two of drum'n'bass or garage. This would invariably include an MC spluttering his name over the track. I know what you're thinking. What has this lovely little anecdote of my lost years selling photocopiers got to do with the wonder that is Toro y Moi's third album? It has everything to do with track two, 'Say That'. Although not by any means a garage track, it does feature a female vocal that could come straight from an MJ Cole record (i.e., Elizabeth Troy - it's not), and an MC throwing out random vocals like he's on Eruption FM in 2004. Anything In Return is an album that stirs memories. Admittedly, the memory I get from 'Say That' is from a low-point in my life, but for you it could be times spent with friends trying to follow the single of your favourite station.
Opener 'Harm In Charge' gently eases you into the album. Essentially a love song about two lovers moving away together for a new start, it gets ever more urgent as the seconds pass away to mirror the planned elope that is getting closer and closer. The electronic element, which has always been present in Bundick's work, is far more pronounced that ever before, and the indicators are there that this is quite detached from both Causers Of This and Underneath The Pine.
'So Many Details', the lead single, is a beautifully produced piece of work; the soulful melody and Bundick's vocals make this a ready made pop song, but with its feet planted firmly in the credible pile. 'Cola', the brilliant 'Grown Up Calls' and 'How's It Wrong' do the same job and further cements the feeling that this could be a very, very good pop album.
It's more than a pop album though. 'Rose Quartz' takes a full 1 minute 54 seconds of build up to hit a proper vocal. You don't get that in pop these days, where everybody wants instant gratification. When the vocal does hit though, my god it's worth it. He's channeling every eighties movie starring Judge Reinhold you have ever seen into it. Then on 'Touch' Bundick comes across as somebody afraid to be heard. His voice is disjointed and timid and a total juxtaposition to the complex beat behind. 'Never Matter' is the other massively eighties influenced track. This time R&B is the reference point (the sort of R&B that Bobby Brown used to make, but with added "yelps").
For me the standout tracks are 'Studies' - which starts with what sound like ethnic strings accompanied by high pitched vocals, before darting in and out of a number of different sounds - and 'Cake'. The latter is the track that he'll be closing gigs with while we all sing along. Confident and instantly head nod inducing, it's another example of a pop song, but a pop song with so much more (once again). I'm going to invent a new genre and call it pop-plus (perhaps stylised pop+). This is pop+.
The only track I haven't yet mentioned is 'High Living'. Here we have reverbs throughout, and that vocal again. As much as I loved his previous efforts, their lo-fi nature hid what is an excellent singing voice. It is this album, with the more polished production, that shows off Toro y Moi as much more than just a chillwave innovator. This is either a new Chaz Bundick or one that has just been hidden away. Either way, he's nailed it.