Top 10 of 2011 (So Far) #10

Toro y Moi
Underneath The Pine

Perhaps the most difficult album of the year to really get a handle on, Toro y Moi’s second LP was the most anticipated records we’ve had in quite a while at the time of its release. His first album Causers Of This was a game-changer in indie music. Not celebrated to the point that it should have been until at least a year after its debut, it could (or rather, should) be called the defining record of the chillwave movement. There is nothing out there that did what it did with greater intelligence or to greater effect. This of course led to a lot of speculation about how amazing Underneath The Pine would be, but no one could have expected the turn that it took. Sure there are still electronic and hip-hop influences in the beats, but this new album infused those with the sounds of disco and psychedelic pop. Somehow, from out of left field, Underneath The Pine shifted Toro Y Moi from being a one-man electronic mastermind to a psych-pop band. It is still incredible in its own ways, but hardly embodies the sound that we all fell in love with his debut for. It doesn’t conform to any industry norm, but still forsakes its precursor. It also doesn’t help that he has turned in the solo status that was a strength and a quality that set him apart, in order to take on the backing of a full band; this leads to attempting to draw in too many sounds, and gives Underneath The Pine a chaos that is difficult to wrap one’s mind around, especially in contrast to the order and wholeness of his first record. Much the same as the album, the live show in support of it was good but the mind-boggling amount of changes made it impossible to lose yourself in the music. Instead, you found yourself wondering what was going on. What happened to the Chaz that had such indomitable stage presence and command of the music and the audience when he was on his own? And why was the once-show-stealer of an artist having his show stolen (as it most certainly was) by Braids? Even for all this that might make you think Underneath The Pine was an utter disappointment, it was still a very good album and still more than worthy of making this list. “Divina” is a great, mellowed-out tune that swirls trip-hop and psychedelia into a soulful, juicy two-minute instrumental melody that transports you to some distant ethereal cloud. It’s at moments like that, and on the last two tracks “Good Hold” and “Elise”, where this record is at its best – returning in small ways to the modesty of Causers Of This with a little more energy and less forcefulness. Even if it does lack the off-the-wall looping and the unpretentious soulfulness of Causers, this is still one of the best and most memorable albums of the year.

Favorite Tracks:
“Divina”
“Good Hold”
“Elisa”

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