Chaz Bear, known professionally as Toro y Moi, is notorious for utilizing a wide array of funky beats inspired by numerous genres in his music. Bear's latest work, Outer Peace, marks a tangible step forward in his ability to weave new sounds into a cohesive album. While his previous album Boo Boo is a pleasant, lighthearted work of psychedelic synth music, Outer Peace marks a sonic departure into a new breezy funk vibe interspersed with emotional, slow–burning beats.
“Ordinary Pleasure,” previously released as a single, is easily the star of the first half of the album. Featuring groovy conga drums, the song masterfully combines Bear's pondering about fetishization of pleasure and sex in music with a beat that recalls a time where music wasn’t as dominated by billboard–friendly themes of sex and overproduced stadium anthems. He sings, “Does sex even sell anymore/I feel like I’ve seen it all/Or maybe I’m just old/Or maybe I’m just bored,” questioning our current musical zeitgeist while reverting back to a tried–and–true recipe of simplicity in beats: keys, bass, and drums (with a little conga sprinkled in, as well). The music video for “Ordinary Pleasure” hits the point home even further, as its entire premise is a single camera shot following Bear around as he shows the viewer his video and different people dancing, painting, and enjoying the simplicities and “ordinary pleasures” in life.
While the heart of the album—“New House” and “Baby Drive It Down”—slows in tempo, Toro y Moi still showcases his ability to incorporate some groove into otherwise minimalistic beats. “New House” in particular is what deems a “sneaky highlight” of the album, a song which hints at the difficulty that millennials and Generation Z will have becoming homeowners in a changing urban world. He also laments in his second verse, “I ain’t even make it off the jetway/Phone’s been on blast like all day/Why you gotta do this? Try to test me/Right when I touchdown, got anxiety." As an obvious nod to being tied to your phone and the increased anxiety of being socially available, “New House” calls out the issues we encounter as constantly connected twenty–somethings.
If the middle of Outer Peace represents the moment to take a break from the dance floor to have a drink and an introspective conversation, “Freelance” symbolizes being (perhaps begrudgingly) dragged back out onto the dance floor for some more shifty dance rhythms. With “Freelance” being arguably the most dance floor–ready track on the album, Toro y Moi reintroduces the listener to his upbeat funk–disco sound in a marked departure from those slower tracks of the middle of the album—and yet, he still makes these transitions in pace feel seamless.
“Who I Am,” immediately following “Freelance,” continues Outer Peace’s theme of coupling groovy disco–inspired electronic pop with lyrics of identity crises and uncertainty. In the chorus, Bear sings, “This might be my brand new sound/Psychedelic, oh, wow/Add an accent to your sound/Now I don’t know who I am/Now I don’t know who I am/Now I don’t know who I am." Yet, what Bear hopes to accomplish lyrically with “Who I Am” misses the mark. While the beat itself—mixed by Toro y Moi and his longtime co–producer Patrick Jones—is an absolute masterpiece, the message doesn't hit home like it does on other tracks. The song itself is a full three and a half minutes, but Toro y Moi only produces the chorus and one other verse throughout the song, leaving a sense of lyrical shallowness that isn’t sufficient for Bear to deliver profound questions of identity and uncertainty.
For all the struggles Toro y Moi faces when conveying his identity crises on “Who I Am,” the final song on Outer Peace, “50–50,” is a strong sendoff. Outer Peace is dedicated to finding self–fulfillment within a sea of internal doubts and worries. While these issues can't be wrapped up in a storybook ending, Toro y Moi leaves the listener with a fleeting sense of comfort and autonomy. In his final verse, Bear defiantly states, “For a second, I forgot who I was/For a minute, I was over you/For that year, I was looking down/Someone hold me down, down with the truth/Die for my love, die for my grind/50–50 fail, fuck it, I'mma die flying," marking his decision to follow his passions and accept the consequences of falling short.
In an with illroots, Toro y Moi said of his album, “Outer Peace is sort of a reference to the process of being creative, being like our escape–within all of the crazy shit that can go on in society, and everyday life and just personal shit, we have to find peace within ourselves and then we also just have to hold it together when we’re out in public.” It seems that Toro y Moi’s decision to constantly shift the pacing and tempo of songs within the album is a creative choice itself, indicative of his uncertainty in searching for self–acceptance. Through this angle, Outer Peace may just be Toro y Moi’s most relatable work yet, as a testament to the search for happiness and contentment in a world of competition, insecurity, and hesitance. And for that, Toro y Moi’s latest album certainly feels like a step towards inner peace.