Chillwave sensation Toro Y Moi is Chazwick Bundick’s brainchild. He first gained attention in 2010 when his vibed-out song “Blessa” started circulating the blogosphere in support of his debut album Causers of This. Bundick’s band quickly developed a reputation as a leader of the chillwave movement that spawned after Panda Bear’s 2007 album Person Pitch. Along with Washed Out and Neon Indian, Toro y Moi encapsulated carefree electronica-infused pop. Bundick excels at the lightweight pleasantness, his music being something that can be kept on repeat all day with nothing but feel-good vibes being created.
Toro Y Moi’s newest release June 2009 is exactly that – a series of songs Bundick wrote and recorded in June 2009. At the time he was 22 years old and on the verge of graduating from college. Here he is, a kid about to be released from the binding structure of school into the intimidating nature of the real world. In a sort of last ditch effort he recorded a series of songs as a way to make sense of the change going on around him. The recordings are very low-fi and experimental with Bundick using different techniques on each song. In the process, he found his Toro Y Moi sound. This is what June 2009 is: Bundick’s basement tapes, introspective demos, and the birthplace of his future.
The album is short, running under 30 minutes and most of the songs not going over the 3:30 mark. Still, Bundick makes opportunities to show all sorts of different sides and techniques. On “Ektelon” he uses electronic sampling to bring a slicing jab of a lightsaber and bleeping robot noises that make him sound like the future. “Drive South” floats along a funky bass line dissolving like a desert mirage. There is an early version of “Talamak” which hints at where he discovered the atmospheric pop sound which he mastered on Causers of This.
This album is as chill as Toro Y Moi’s other releases but has the notable difference of being much more personal. On Causers of This and 2011’s Underneath the Pine it didn’t matter what Bundick was singing about as long as his falsetto rang out. On June 2009 he still plays with the high end of his vocals but his lyrics are clearer and more important. He is taking a look around at his changing world and trying to make sense of it. “Take the L to Leave” starts with the radio sounds of the city and becomes a contemplation about moving to New York to help further his career. On “Sad Sams” he expresses anxiety of his friends moving away by warping the beat into a unstable jungle theme. He repeats “No one will die” and “No one will cry” as a melodic reminder to stay calm and that everything will be okay. The peaceful nature of this music makes it the perfect medication of troublesome thoughts.
This album also features a lot more guitar than his other albums. On “Girl Problems” Bundick tears into his guitar and for someone who usually sticks to a more electronic side, he shreds it. Album closer “New Loved Ones” has no sign of electronics and has him unplugged and digging into his acoustic. His voice is shaky with an echo effect and he sings about personal faith, “Mother Mary, pray for me/ cause I know not what I’ve done/ I can’t feel your touch.” This is a side of Bundick we have not seen and is a prime example of how close to his heart this album is.
June 2009 sounds like a journal entry, almost too personal for us to be listening to; and like a written journal entry, the songs come across as fragments. They clearly weren’t thoroughly polished and were not written for a mass audience. The album might not be attempting to bring in new listeners but rather deepen the understanding for current fans. It provides an origin of Toro y Moi and a more intimate side of its frontman. This isn’t an album for everyone but if you’re already a fan of Toro Y Moi or chillwave, you’ll probably appreciate it.