Underneath the Pine mostly perplexing
Since first coming into the pseudo-main stream world of music, Chaz Bundick, who created the stage name Toro y Moi (Bull and Me), has returned with his second album in two years, Underneath the Pine. Sadly, only a few songs in the album are really worth listening to.
As a whole, the album is overwhelmingly bizarre. In Bundick‚Äôs previous album, Causers of This, the sounds were energetic but not overpowering, and still allowed the album to be interestingly off-beat. Underneath the Pine, however, fails to generate the same curiosity the first album spurred. This time, the feeling is one of annoyance.
The biggest problem with the album is its poor use of instrumentals. ‚ÄúIntro/Chi Chi‚ÄĚ feels straight off of a Thievery Corporation album with only instrumentals. It‚Äôs an interesting mix of keys, drums and feedback, but in the beginning of the song, it seems as though the instruments themselves are in pain.
The mood fluctuates from there on. At times the album plunges into a negative vibe and instrumentals that are hard on listeners‚Äô ears. Other times it presents much calmer tunes. The mood of ‚ÄúNew Beat,‚ÄĚ a combination of ‚Äô90s jamming and chill-wave vibes gives the listener a good tune to sway to. The song gets better as it continues, but the boingy-boing, phase-shifting sounds in the background can prompt a headache. The song eventually weaves into a kaleidoscope-type trance that includes people in the background chanting ‚Äúdon‚Äôt forget.‚ÄĚ
Thankfully, ‚ÄúGo With You‚ÄĚ lets the listener relax a little more. It is closer to what one might expect from Toro y Moi and is far less obnoxious than the previous song. Less than half of the song is lyrically based, and the other half is instrumentals with calm, cool sounds alongside sparkling chimes in the background. The song‚Äôs parts are nice and make for easy background music for things like doing homework or riding an elevator.
The tone comes down even more with ‚ÄúDivina,‚ÄĚ which brings a much darker tone to the album, sometimes echoing ‚ÄúDeep‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúFame‚ÄĚ by Radiohead. When listening to this song, the stirring effect music can have on the soul is audibly evident. There are no lyrics and the sounds are effectively mixed together. Be warned, though, the song is definitely somewhat sleep-inducing. Keeping a pillow nearby is not a bad idea.
Unfortunately, these calming melodies do not make up for some unspectacular and strange songs found in the album.
‚ÄúHow I Know,‚ÄĚ in particular, has conflicting sounds that lend the song a faulty composition. Bundick would do well to consider sticking with one rhythm or pattern.
‚ÄúGood Hold‚ÄĚ starts off dark enough to induce frowns and maybe a tear drop or two. The piano is intense, and even though the song eventually evens out, the beginning of the track practically ruins the whole piece, leaving a sour taste in the listener‚Äôs mouth.
The album ends well with ‚ÄúElise,‚ÄĚ once again harnessing the familiar rhythms one might expect from Toro y Moi. In the middle of the song, however, what sounds unnervingly like a Boy Scout choir adds a straining layer of vocal chords. With this song, the album partially redeems the album‚Äôs midsection failures.
Underneath the Pine can only really be enjoyed if the listener is willing to deconstruct the songs before actually enjoying them. In this case, that process could take three listens of the calmer but perplexing LP.