An Unexpected Progression
For those expecting Toro Y Moi to continue down the path they forged with singles such as “So Many Details” and “Still Sound,” What For? may come as a mild disappointment. Because while the slinky grooves and nimble hooks of past albums are still present in every song, the band’s fourth album forgoes dance beats and modern synthesizer flourishes for a traditional guitar-driven sound. This change in dynamic could be attributed to Toro Y Moi ringleader, Chaz Bundick, getting his electronic fix via his simultaneous side project, Les Sins. Or perhaps it is a logical progression for a band with a history that has shown nothing but a penchant for changing their sound.
If it was not apparent from the success of Les Sins, Bundick has not departed from his mastery of crafting a killer groove. “Spell It Out” recalls the earthiest sounds of vintage disco, and the track comes replete with Bundick’s hooky, falsetto vocals and funky, treble-driven guitar riffs. As is the case with much of What For?, “Spell It Out” is deeply stacked with layers of vintage synths that clearly brand it as a Toro Y Moi production.
Elsewhere, the album mines many of the current psychedelic-rock trends that have emerged (or re-emerged) over the past decade. The wailing intro of “Half Dome” kicks off with a classic-rock indebted guitar solo, recalling a heavily-glossed version of White Fence’s psych anthems. “The Flight” has one of those meandering, steadily-paced intros that are so ubiquitous on Tame Impala’s two releases. In fact, What For?is similar to Tame Impala in that the songs scan as a collection of psychedelic-rock tunes that have heavily de-emphasized the “rock” element.
While Toro Y Moi found their indie stardom exploring textured electronic-based sounds during the “chillwave” movement, the traditional rock sounds heard on What For? are not completely unprecedented. June 2009, a recently released tour compilation, culled some of Bundick’s earliest tracks under the Toro Y Moi moniker, revealing a sound that was just as indebted to Built to Spill as it was to Boards of Canada. As strange as it may sound to those most familiar with the band’s last two releases, What For? could be considered a bit of a nostalgia trip for Toro Y Moi.