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Album review: Toro Y Moi, 'Anything in Return'

*** (out of four)

If you remember the peak bedroom pop era of 2009--back before we had Instagram filters and Buzzfeed lists to mine our nostalgia full-time--there was this idea that, like, feelings were real in the '80s, you guys (!), but now they are vague.

A wave of artists put out videos designed to look like fading VHS tapes and released music designed to sound like decaying cassettes--there was a guy called Memory Tapes! Seriously! Memory Tapes! And as far as I can tell, they've been trying to live it down ever since by laying out their feelings in more definitive terms.

Toro Y Moi, a standout member of that class, did this by releasing a more straightforward disco album on which the lyrics were actually discernable. But that album tended to feel wan, lacking some of the standout production and giddy releases of tension on his debut. On Toro Y Moi's third album, "Anything in Return," the backlash is far enough in the past that singer/producer Chaz Bundick's two approaches can find a happy medium. The result is a supremely comfortable, vaguely disco-indebted electronic album on which sung vocals and samples blend effortlessly, drum patterns lazily weave in and out of pillowy synthesizers and exciting production flourishes crop up constantly without ever seeming crowded.

"Anything in Return" doesn't demand attention. Rather, it coaxes and reassures, hinting that, like, maybe this would be a good time to dance but, like, it's totally cool if you don't want to either, or whatever. The lyrics of fantastic lead single "Say That" include phrases such as "I can't decide" and "We're all right."

It's house music for the timid, but peaks such as the anthemic "Cake" and the chillwave-Backstreet-Boys-leaning "Never Matter" ultimately deliver an energetic late-album pay off. Lyrically, it's mostly an album about handling relationships in transition, which seems appropriate: "Anything in Return" finds Toro Y Moi building on his past successes and creating something that's looking to be more lasting.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic

See him live Feb. 19 at Metro.

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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