Whenever I am having a rough time with something, I find a lot of comfort in the pioneering power pop of the Memphis band Big Star. There is something about the thin, yet confident sound of Alex Chilton’s voice mixed with the emotional, hook-driven arrangements of that band that make me feel like I am occupying a safe, familiar space or sentiment. You know how you can simultaneously have a very specific and vague idea about what “home” is? Like sure it’s a place, but it is also a warm sensation that wraps itself around your chest, never too tight.
When I first head Toro Y Moi’s new album What For (out April 7 via Carpark), I felt that same familiar embrace, which was surprising given his electronic leaning sounds from past albums. It’s definitely a weird feeling to be surprised by something familiar, but Bundick has always been a capable, versatile musician beyond the “chillwave” genre that was assigned to him in his early career.
Everything about “Run Baby Run” from its soft chord progression to Chaz Bundick’s smoothe vocal melody and admonishing lyrics, sound like a direct reference to the power pop ballads on Big Star’s eponymous album. Listen to this track and then “Thirteen” back-to-back and tell me you don’t hear that.
Recently at a KCRW showcase in Santa Monica, Chaz played through his album for the first time, speaking timidly about playing guitar in front of an audience for the first time in a long time. Despite his nerves, he sounded great, and that’s what made the performance so special. He was returning to something familiar that he hadn’t had access to in a long time, and we were all right there with him when it happened.
Check out that entire live performance below via KCRW.