Smooth, cool, mild and sweet, Underneath the Pine goes down like a strawberry smoothie and sticks with you about as long. Toro y Moi, the project of multi-instrumentalist Chaz Bundick, does get points for his fluid navigation of an impressively wide range of beats, ranging from groovy throwbacks to outer-space territory.
This skillful blending of synthesized sounds is accompanied by Bundick’s soft voice swells. But vague, muffled lyrics—“It’s hard where you’re leaving”—fail to hold the listener’s attention nearly as well as the album’s disturbing cover art. There’s a fine line between chill(wave) and detached, and Toro Y Moi has overstepped it.
Where first album Causers of This had a few subtle yet riveting tracks like “Blessa” and “Talamak,” Underneath the Pine lacks energy. At points when Bundick allows certain riffs or vocals to stand out, the effect tends to fall short of expectation. The instrumental “Divina” features beautiful layering of piano and strings, but lacks dynammism, melody and any recognizable emotional depth. The minor-key melancholy never settles in on a concrete subject, and the whole track feels distant. The end result is a pleasant yet forgettable haze of melodies, an emotional retreat from the debut album.
To call Underneath the Pine a lemon, though, would not be quite accurate, as Toro y Moi has been cruising the whole time. In the end, though, you have to admit it is a pretty nice ride.
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