As much as I can’t stand the term ‘chillwave,’ I gladly look past its inherent hokeyness to appreciate the genre’s stalwarts. Toro y Moi’s Chaz Bundwick just so happens to be one of them.
For the uninformed, chillwave is the tag used to describe the style of acts like Toro, as well as Washed Out, Neon Indian, Beach Fossils and others. With elements of both shoegaze and new wave, chillwave is a lo-fi approach to electro-pop music, a hazy blend of keys and processed guitars. The Last.fm page for chillwave describes it as a mash-up of 1980s synth-pop and dream pop.
I’m not so opposed to that description, but when I think of 80s synth-pop, I only imagine the Ghostbusters theme and Slam Bamboo:
…featuring Trent Reznor, because of course it does. For the record, I aspire to have hair just like Slam Bamboo’s singer.
Sandwiched in between Causers of This and this year’s impeccable Anything in Return is Toro y Moi’s Underneath the Pine, Bundwick’s most muted release yet. Considering this is the dude who brought us songs like “Blessa” and “Talamak” from Causers, to me, Underneath was a step backwards.
There’s a lot of what I think is feeling around, and not in the chill, sexy way-ve (sorry). Considering that 2 more Toro EPs would be released (Freaking Out, also in 2011, and last year’s June 2009, a really neat box set of songs recorded during the title’s time period) before his newest full length, it seems to me that Underneath was an era of growing pains.
Most notable of these pains is “Good Hold,” the next-to-last song on the album. Its dissonance and out of tune piano may seem like the #art thing to do, but neither sit well with me.
I wanted to like this record a lot more than I did, but it’s the most average and basic of Bundwick’s work. There’s definitely some goodies on here, including opening track “Intro / Chi Chi” and the first single, “New Beat” (the song most reminiscent of Causers of This on this album).
New fans of chillwave will find some decent songs on here, but they’d be better fit to look in the direction of the full-lengths prior to and after this release.
From Toro y Moi’s 2011 album Underneath the Pine, this is “How I Know” –
Standout tracks: “New Beat” and “Got Blinded”
Weakest track: “Good Hold”
RIYL: The music played in Urban Outfitters. Chillwave, lo-fi electro-pop. Washed Out, Twin Shadow, CANT, Neon Indian.