Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine

written by: February 28, 2011
Toro y Moi - Underneath the Pine album cover Release Date: February 22, 2011


What’s more annoying: The coining of the term “chillwave” or bands vehemently denying that they are? Chazwick Brundick doesn’t appreciate the title and yet he came on the scene at the same time Neon Indian and every other “waver” did, bearing similar aesthetic and sound. Some say that Underneath the Pine is a departure from Toro y Moi’s previous categorization, but it’s still chill as hell.

The album rarely transcends pastiche, whether it’s ’60s psychedelia (roto-organs and harpsichords) or retro-funk and is only ever slightly more moveable than Causers of This, his first studio album. Who knew that when Brundick made the switch from digital to entirely acoustic, it would sound so dated? It’s too chill for its own good; one might call it terminally chill.

It could have just as well been lounge instrumentals with lyrics plastered over them as an afterthought.

While Causers was the album that your “friend made in his bedroom,” no matter what you thought of it, the great defense was, “It’s low-budget, self-made and was released too soon.” None of those excuses remain firm for Toro y Moi, who’s had a year since, plenty of touring and time to conceptualize. In fairness, Underneath the Pine sounds like it was made in a bigger bedroom.

Brundick collaborated with Urban Outfitters to shoot the music video for “New Beat.” The result of that pairing is kind of like the album: Smoky, obscure, shot on vintage film and selling hipsters their own lifestyle back to them. Granted, “New Beat” is irrevocably funky, the one genuine hip shaker that permeates an otherwise uneventful release.

It’s not exactly clear why Brundick sings. The words are falsetto and distant enough to convince listeners they’re just atmospheric, and then there’s such a density of them on songs like “How I Know,” itself a bubblegum effort, one can’t help but think he wants listeners to heed them.

It’s hard to think of an appropriate occasion for listening to this album. Just about everything but “New Beat” and maybe “Still Sound,” is blurry ambience. There’s no doubt that the album is impressive, even a step forward. Rather than abandon his original sound altogether or go bitterly into the cosmos, the end result is a slightly catchier, more sensible sophomore effort, but there’s no question it could be more refined.

Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine tracklist:

  1. “Intro/Chi-Chi”
  2. “New Beat”
  3. “Go With You”
  4. “Divina”
  5. “Before I’m Done”
  6. “Got Blinded”
  7. “How I Know”
  8. “Light Black”
  9. “Still Sound”
  10. “Good Hold”
  11. “Elise”