After years of unfair neglect, “Pop” is beginning to slip back into acceptable vocabulary. ‘Call Me Maybe’ cemented the revolution; a song that might’ve otherwise expected a similar reception to lukewarm powder-mix custard being served in a fine-dining establishment was adored and sung along to almost unanimously. Only last week Justin Timberlake launched a teaser video that showed him sauntering moodily around his house MTV Cribs-style, before dramatically husking “I’m ready”. Destiny’s Child came out of hiatus and nearly gave fans everywhere a heart attack as they suddenly released a new single. And then, lets not forget the biggest return of them all; Dido.
A less likely candidate for pop stardom has to be Chaz Bundick. Toro Y Moi was at the forefront of more-alt-than-thou movement Chillwave; not, perhaps, your initially obvious candidate for a gloss of bubblegum. “I’m just trying to make sincere pop music,” the 25 year old producer said late last year, “Underground isn’t always relevant.” He’s right. You only have to look at the huge well-recognised success of Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange and the popularity of The Weeknd’s smooth, sultry R’n’B last year to see that sometimes, being overground can be relevant too.
You only have to give a cursory listen to the slap-bass melodies and infectious grooves on Bundick’s previous records to hear the genuine pop potential; but there seems to be a vein of irony dividing Anything To Return. At times Bundick appears to be making music complete with an aside wink – he’s full of half-ironic arty statements. With hand poised over a sound deck labelled “pop tropes”, Toro Y Moi is surely being tongue-in-cheek – peppering this record with samples of generic rappers shouting “yeah” and lovey-dovey lyrics that would make One Direction cringe. Bundick is at his most tiresome on ‘How’s It Wrong’, gushing “She’s someone I can’t have” in a kind of guffawing ‘N Sync parody.
When Chaz Bundick tries too hard to make subversive and edgy comments on popular culture, it works about as effectively as Girls Aloud forming a My Bloody Valentine tribute band. Anything To Return is at its best where it showcases pop music rather than making fun of it. The drawn-out ‘High Living’ slinks its way into your ears like a winning pop melody should, ‘Grown Up Calls’ is a sleazy slow-jam complete with popping snares and yelping vocals. The high points of this record are undeniably of the pop sensibility, but also possess a sort of oddball charm. Anything To Return is by no means a flawless record, but it is certainly an interesting prospect. In places Toro Y Moi succeeds effortlessly in adapting the mainstream for his own alternative means, but frustratingly, at times is only as meaningful as few comedy jabs of the ’90s dance demo button.