Justin Carroll-Allan is just riding the chillwave.
The master of love songs for well-dressed introverts has returned. In preparation for his fifth studio album, Boo Boo, Toro Y Moi—the nom de plume of Chaz Bear—has released a new video for the album’s first single, “A Girl Like You.” The sound is equal parts Gary Numan and Tony! Toni! Toné!, and the video looks like it was recorded for public access television in ’89. “A Girl Like You,” marks a return to the synth-driven, love-focused song-writing style that earned him a top spot in indie pop with his full-length 2010 debut, Causers of This.
When Toro Y Moi broke into the indie scene, his music was a much-needed palate cleanser to the buzzy, garage rock we’d been inundated with since 2005. Rather than filling the air with reverb and snotty ambivalence, Bear created painfully sincere songs about love lost and found you couldn’t stop yourself from dancing to. And though Toro Y Moi was lumped in with chillwave, an embarrassing, blogger-coined genre created to classify bands like Neon Indian and Washed Out, Bear’s music stood out for its silky R&B sensibilities and irresistible disco grooves. Toro Y Moi was music for staying out too late dancing with that person from your econ class, for finally making out in a Payless Shoe Source parking lot with your crush from work.
I remember going to a party thrown to honor a writer who is no longer famous in the fall of 2011. To avoid participating in a conversation about David Foster Wallace, I stepped outside for a smoke. Two of my classmates were on the patio, dancing by the speakers to “Imprint After,” their eyes locked as they stepped towards each other, then back. “What made you want to come back to me? Was it ‘cause I didn’t want to leave?” Bear implored as I watched them, afraid to break the spell. They’re still together; they have a beautiful daughter and live in Michigan.
“A Girl Like You” is a welcoming sign that the old Toro Y Moi is back. Bear’s most recent album, 2015’s What For?, was a departure from his signature dreamy dance pop, a more traditional indie rock album with lots of fuzzy guitar, less synth, less R&B influence. While this shift might’ve befuddled some fans, it was actually a return to an earlier version of his music. Before Causers of This, Bear had experimented with traditional indie rock tropes before settling on the synth-layered dance-pop that filled his first four albums.
While the music on What For? is technically proficient, the psychedelic guitar licks don’t match Bear’s singing style, and his sincere, confessional lyrics about falling in love seem too bald—out of place without synth layers, infectious dance beats, and poppy hooks. You can only wear your heart on your sleeve if you can do it with the right style. If “A Girl Like You,” is any indication of the rest of the album, Boo Boo will prove to be a return to that style, the perfect album to fall in love to over the summer.