As of late, Chaz Bundick has been putting in some serious work. Since his chillwave pioneering a few years back, Toro y Moi has had an effective start to his career, to say the least. His debut record Causers of This in 2010 received mixed feelings, but it’s hard to doubt that everybody left that record knowing that Chaz was capable of much greater things in the near future. That’s where Underneath the Pine comes in; a giant step forward for the visionary from South Carolina.
While packed with gems, Toro’s last effort was perhaps too obscure for it’s own good. Particularly on tracks like “Fax Shadow” and “Freak Love” — hazy atmosphere acknowledged — there seemed to be a lack of clarity, tainting an album with such a beatific beginning in “Blessa” and “Minors”. Underneath the Pine is undeniably more accessible than its predecessor, and that’s clear from the get-go. Once the perplexing introduction rolls by, and the Moon Safari-esque percussion dwindles down (I had this connection written down before Pitchfork, god-damnit…), single “New Beat” is roller girl ready. The infectious bass line and disco direction leave a lasting impression, looking like a poor man’s “Round and Round” a la Ariel Pink, which is one of the greater compliments an artist working in 2011 could receive. Coincidentally, the roller girls would be wearing Ariel attire while skating to the tune.
In all likelihood, there are less standouts on Underneath the Pine when pairing it up with Causers of This, but that’s not to say it’s not a better record. By looking at the structure alone, Pine is full-bodied and possesses a much more sensible play-through. “Elise” is a rational choice for album ender, with a first minute inhale before everything lets loose. While on the subject matter of emanating, look no further than Pine’s nonpareil “How I Know” to boldly deposit some much-needed killer instinct into Chaz’s repertoire. It’s one track that manifests Toro’s growth in one busy year.
It’s hard to believe Underneath the Pine will get much love when end-of-year lists begin to devour the internet, though my cap is tipped in Toro’s general direction. Chaz grew tired of the chillwave genre and decided to do what any hard-working artist would do in that situation; dive into new waters. It’s much cleaner here, but surely we shouldn’t expect him to ever stay put.