Continuing our series of record reviews that should have been posted a while ago, let's talk about Underneath The Pine, the second full-length from Chaz Bundick, better known by his stage name as Toro Y Moi. Highly anticipated, Underneath The Pine was released in February to great acclaim from the indie chillwave world, and was followed by an equally successful release tour with a full band around the country. Previous readers of this fine (sporadic) interweb publication should already be familiar with this author's love for Toro Y Moi, which has been expressed in numerous mentions of his first album, Causers of This, and his earlier solo tour with The Ruby Suns in 2010.
Delightfully, I can concur with the general hipster consciousness that Toro Y Moi's sophomore effort does not disappoint. All the promise of an exciting new music-maker that was put forth in the first album has been developed into a skillfully crafted second album that showcases Bundick's talent as a producer and composer. As much as I enjoyed Causers of This, the album had some awkward moments and occasionally stalled, wonderfully Underneath The Pine has more cohesion, depth, and better momentum. I can listen to this album for on repeat for hours and remain captivated, finding something new to appreciate with every play. A lot of reviews seem to suggest that this is some new direction for Bundick, but to me it sounds like he's working to make his music grow up and towards a more mature ideal. That is precisely that approach to art and life that makes me respect a musician. I can't wait to hear what Toro Y Moi does next.
Of all the developments towards a warmer and more human sound that this album has taken, I've been the most intrigued by the lyrics. I can't remember singing along to the first album at all, but the second album has me spending hours reading the lyrics in the liner notes along to the music and whispering the words. I suppose not everyone finishes college unsure of what to do with their lives or ending up traveling constantly, but if you're like me, and you did too, then you'll empathize with these lyrics. "If leaving our home makes us grow then I'll go with you. You know I'll be alright whatever it is. Our choices aren't too bad, it's the distance", from track three Go With You. And, "You Should do it while you can. Don't let it go. You should hold her while you can. Don't let her go", from track ten Good Hold. These lyrics are ambiguous enough to resonate with many people, but still filled with a very personal sort of conflicting longing.
My final comment is kudos to some of the throwback sounds of this album, such as funk bass lines and jazz piano flourishes. It adds fun and dimension, but when coupled with chillwave electronic noises and purposefully heavy production retains a fresh new feel. So basically, if you like chillwave, indie, electro, funk, solo projects or any of the above, and aren't too strict with your definitions of music, you should check out Toro Y Moi and give Underneath The Pine a listen. Even this early in the year it is a solid contender for Best Of 2011 lists.