Birthed from the combined forces of vintage synthesizers and lo-fi vocals, chillwave emerged in the late 2000s as an auditory representation of hypnagogia. Once it began making waves on the internet through the likes of Pictureplane and Neon Indian, journalists were quick to describe the genre with the same words and expressions: dreamy, nostalgic, evocative of summer night skies painted in pastels, cozy sunlit bedrooms draped in a blanket of comfort.
The chillwave scene seemed to wither almost as quickly as it came about, leaving the world just a little bit less peaceful. Many chillwave artists gave up and moved on from their rose-tinted worlds, but the genre left some potential stars in its wake. The biggest is, almost inarguably, Toro y Moi.
The sleepytime pop virtuoso has toyed with many genres and instruments over the span of his career. Still, he wears his chillwave badge with pride as evidenced by his newest work, a 10-track album entitled, Outer Peace. Perhaps a resurgence of chillwave is on the horizon with this release — if not, it’s okay. Toro y Moi is all we need.
Musically, Outer Peace lives up to its title. The album breezes by before you know it, easy listening built on a platform of soft warbling and warped vocoders. The hazy melodies that result are musical warmth — something to lull you to sleep or hold your hand on a tranquil walk.
For this album, the electronic sounds of 2017’s Boo Boo reverberate, but improved upon this time around. Enjoyable nonetheless, Outer Peace feels like an album we’ve heard before at times. Whether this is a negative or a positive is open to interpretation — either way, it’s a sound masterminded by Toro y Moi, with room for growth and experimentation within.
His overall sound isn’t solely responsible for his claim to chillwave royalty — expert songwriting offers other paths to the throne. According to Toro y Moi, the lyrical content of Outer Peace is dedicated to creators seeking connection with others. He has described the album as a response to the disposable internet culture of recent years and the effects it has on creativity.
“I feel like I’ve seen it all — or maybe I’m just old, or maybe I’m just bored,” he sings on the second track ‘Ordinary Pleasure’, robotic vocals over an upbeat dance track combined to get the point across.
His singsong laments and observations about millennial melancholy are appropriately paired with 90s inspired electronica, a futuristic take on funk. In this parallel, we can characterize the entire album.
Outer Peace is consistent in music and lyrics across the board, hinting at a meticulous nature behind it. Towards the end, however, is where Outer Peace shines the most.
“Freelance”, one of Toro y Moi’s best, is the most unforgettable track on the album. Describing technology as both a tool and a detriment to creatives, the pure retro pop “Freelance” is made up of updates disco with a purpose. Toro y Moi’s vocals are beautifully unclean, mechanical stammers knocking into each other, a hazy trademark of Outer Peace.
Features on the album are slim, selected with care. Rising R&B princess Abra takes over for the fourth track, entitled “Miss Me”. Although her haunting croons serve as a break from Toro y Moi’s computerized ones, “Miss Me” effortlessly falls into place in the album’s big picture. Indie pop band Wet makes an appearance on the ninth track, “Monte Carlo.” Kelly Zutrau’s angelic voice contributing to the ethereal quality largely made up of Toro y Moi’s instrumental.
On Outer Peace, Toro y Moi seeks to link the outside world with the digital one. While he runs through some faults he finds with it, the Internet is as explored as a tool for creative people — the reason artists like Toro y Moi could piece together new genres with their innovative sounds.