Live: Toro Y Moi Stretch Out At Mercury Lounge
Better Than : Being under 21, like headlining band Indian Rebound
Toro y Moi shows have changed a lot in the past 18 months. Back in late 2009, when he was opening for the likes of Jemina Pearl and Islands, it was just some synths, a laptop, and a kid named Chaz Bundick. He would spend entire sets staring at his occasionally dancing feet, mumbling his unpolished lyrics more than singing them, and generally hiding behind the house-y thuds, electro-funk loops, and synth-y sighs wafting up from his gear. By 2010, when he was opening for Caribou, he'd brought high school pals into the fold, touring as a trio that added oomph and coloring to the smeared, swooning songs on his debut album, Causers of This. Last night, after a lonely, inscrutable opening set Philip Seymour Hoffman (seriously), Toro y Moi had its soft launch as a quartet.
Bundick's songs are more built than written, and what keeps them together are their ingenious, unorthodox uses of space and timbre -- the way he'll hide a pointed guitar between blown-out organs and shuddering, delayed vocals, or use filters to smudge his way from one rhythmic idea to another. But too often tonight, thrumming basslines obliterated finer textures, and simple, time-keeping drums mucked up once-evocative gaps. The band seemed to be getting through the songs rather than reconfiguring them, though since Bundick has noted in interviews that he prefers to hear different versions of songs at shows, some people may hear the dance-rock-propelled takes on "Talamak" and "Blessa" as just another take on Toro y Moi. And because he's grown into a much more confident, engaging singer, maybe you can't blame him for wanting to rock out, rather than simply dancing with himself.
But for every moment when the group started to sound like a cover band, there was a sign that they could go so much further. "Still Sound" and "Celia," both from the upcoming album Underneath the Pine, each got stretched and revised, the former into jammy disco, the latter into a tower of loops. At one point, there was even a kind of rave-up moment during "Got Blinded" (another new joint), which is exciting when you consider that the song fell out of the same tree as Air's Talkie Walkie.
Unlike his billmates (and springtime touring partners) Cloud Nothings, Bundick and company can't just play their songs louder and faster, which Cloud Nothings did immediately afterward, and with great success. But with another two months to prepare before their big cross-country tour in March, they have more than enough time to reimagine the rest of their set. And given Toro's recent history, it would be silly to expect anything else.
Critical Bias: I prefer all-out pogoing to half-dancing.
Overheard: Bro (to returning fellow bro): "You just missed the weirdest opener ever, dude." Girl: "Quiet! He's looking right at us."
Random Notebook Dump : The drummer is the sort who getstwohitsinwhenonewoulddo . . . and it works.
Toro y Moi Set List
Go With You
Now I Know