Review Summary: Toro Y Moi takes a step ahead of the rest of the chillwave pack.
It seems a bit strange that after all the momentum built up behind chillwave/glo-fi artists in 2009, with musicians like Memory Tapes, Neon Indian and Washed Out all enjoying brief periods in the spotlight, that Toro Y Moi would choose to release his debut LP after the year had passed. It strikes me as a brave move; rather than watch his work get tossed into the flurry and then filed away and forgotten once attention was diverted elsewhere, as the longevity of interest in these trends tends to mirror that of a goldfish, he separated himself from the group. Of course, this would be rendered meaningless if he didn’t have the chops to back up the release, which would certainly not be as easily welcomed now as it would’ve been should he have decided to join the entourage during its brief stay at the party.
Put simply, it was a good decision. Chaz Bundick, the South Carolinan native behind Toro Y Moi, is far ahead of his peers. He may walk like the others, he may talk like the others, but with Causers of This, he leaves them all cowering in his wake. Don’t be fooled by the abundance of fuzz-veiled nostalgia riding out on sun-soaked lo-fi crackling, as it is certainly a trademark of the genre, but with Toro Y Moi, you’re forced to dig a little deeper.
Bundick manages to harness pop sensibilities, tinges of R&B and even a dash of tropical dancefloor tinkering and seperates himself from the pack by doing so. His beats move with a life of their own, such as on the stuttering “Fax Shadow”, where the rhythm lags and pauses and catches up with itself like a scratched record but always with a careful ear for melody. As a result, his songs are constantly stimulating and distinctively more engrossing than artists like Washed Out, who, if anything, encourage listeners to get lost in their hazy, meandering worlds. Mark it down to a difference in direction but Bundick’s constant focus on keeping the listener with him on the journey makes for a much more rewarding experience.
Highlight “Minors” is as engulfing as it is cathartic (“When I live in newer places / I’ll make sure I’m further from you”), and the beats in the brief chorus rise like a splash of water after a moment of stillness, channeling an almost stop-motion quality with rapid shuffling synths and drawn out vocals (“Is this how it ends? / with someone to be with”). On the other end of the spectrum, “Low Shoulder” is decidedly more upbeat and dancefloor-ready, and leads to a catchy guy-girl vocal layering that showcases the compatibility of Bundick’s reverb-laden vocals to the easygoing atmosphere he creates, often feeling more like a joyride than anything arduous in the least; Toro Y Moi is incredibly easy to listen to.
Causers of This is full of subtle nuances that give the tracks individuality, smartly avoiding the shortcoming many of his peers succumbed to, in allowing their music to meld together to a point where it’s difficult to distinguish one track from another. Still, Causers of This flows smoothly, relaxingly, and feels like the type of record that could soundtrack a day at the beach, or a bus ride home after a long night. To sum it up, Causers of This is the best album to come out of the genre (or rather, trend). Not just that, but it stands alone as an album that can be enjoyed even by those who discarded the artists who preceded him. Forget what you know about chillwave, Toro Y Moi is better.