Despite across-the-board acclaim, the two-and-a-half albums released between 2009 and 2012 by Chaz Bundick AKA Toro y Moi highlighted a problem that one can’t help but feel will become increasingly common as the first generation of “Internet Age” kids come of age and start making music: with decent quality production software readily available and unlimited instant access to almost any song ever recorded – and, therefore, a universe of inspiration – at their fingertips, new artists increasingly run the risk of coming across as a mish-mash of their various diverse influences instead of developing individual identities of their own. In Bundick’s case, each release thus far has been so different from the last that they could be the work of different people, with the stoned hip hop beats and chillwave synth washes of debut Causers Of This a world away from follow-up Underneath The Pines‘ lush Beach Boys-meets-Stereolab lounge-pop; last year’s Freaking Out EP, meanwhile, introduced us to Bundick the raver (or, perhaps more accurately, “post-raver”) with 4/4 rhythms aimed squarely at the dancefloor. Third full-length Anything In Return (out January 22 via Carpark Records) finds Bundick finally pulling all these strands together, and in the process arriving for the first time at a sound that is truly his own. Poised midway between the electronic singer-songwriter stylings of his first record and the complex arrangements of his second, the Tropicalia-tinged “Grown Up Calls” and straight-up pop tracks like “Never Matter” and “How’s It Wrong” all lean towards ’80s rare groove, whilst jazz, funk and blue-eyed soul also play a big part; “Day One” and, in particular, “High Living” could pass for Steely Dan outtakes given a trip-hop makeover, which – if you’re in any doubt – is definitely a good thing. Better still are opener “Harm In Change” and “Say That“, both informed by the bleeping synths and thumping pulse of classic Chicago house, and the skipping Timbaland-esque R&B of “So Many Details” (below), an opening triptych unlikely to be bettered in 2013. Cliches be damned, Anything In Return amounts to far more than the sum of its parts; Bundick’s immense talent was never in doubt, but confirmation that he has the tunes – and character – to match is a most welcome development.
Anything In Return is streaming now via Pitchfork Advance.