Toro y Moi: Outer Peace
The cover of Toro y Moi’s sixth LP shows mastermind Chaz Bear gazing into the blinding glow of his computer screen. The image feels symbolic: On Outer Peace, he emphasizes the digital over the organic, weaving European dance music, electrofunk and woozy modern rap-pop into his hazy aesthetic. Each Bear project arrives with a certain level of suspense—in 2017 alone, he leaned into proggy psychedelia with Star Stuff, his collaboration with jazz duo The Mattson 2, and explored his R&B side on the most recent Toro record, Boo Boo. Not since Beck’s critical peak has an artist committed so firmly to fucking with the formula. But the true shock of Outer Peace is how ordinary much of it sounds: “Fading,” with its pitch-shifted vocal samples and fizzy programming, comes off like the kind of anonymous fluff one might hear in an Old Navy fitting room; the clipped, warbling, auto-tuned vocals on “Monte Carlo” are a dead-ringer for trap-pop act Rae Sremmurd; even some of the experimental touches feel overly familiar, like the stuttering, J Dilla-ish drums on soul slow-jam “Miss Me.” Outer Peace’s antiseptic production doesn’t do him any favors—the whole thing sounds like it was created in a laboratory, with each surface buffed to a blinding sheen. But Bear’s genre-blurring craftsmanship still cuts through on a few choice cuts: “Baby Drive It Down” pits a suave, falsetto-leaping vocal over a funky marimba loop and pulsating synth; and “Freelance,” with its gurgling vocal hook and wah-wah bass, blurs the line between campy and ecstatic.