SEE/HEAR: Toro Y Moi – ‘Sandhills’ EP

Toro y moi, Sandhills, indie pop, indie rock, Chaz bear
Toro y Moi releases his new EP Sandhills with a Steve Daniels-directed companion film via Dead Oceans.

The Sandhills EP and film are a journey home for Toro y Moi, as the project finds him returning to the South and exploring his relationship to South Carolina. The project, brought to life through its companion film, tells the story of his homecoming with an autobiographical lens — producer Katherine Perry was Chaz Bear’s high school photography teacher, director Steve Daniels worked with Bear on a video for his high school band (and is Perry’s husband), the football team featured in the film are the actual members of his hometown’s high school football team and the Columbia, SC-based artist Ernest Lee (perhaps better known as Chicken Man), who is responsible for the EP’s artwork, is featured in the film in its opening track “Back Then.”

Beyond its lyrical themes, though, Sandhills marks a sonic homecoming for Bear. After pioneering the sound that came to be known as chillwave at the close of the aughts, Bear has gone on to master pop, disco, psych, yacht rock, ambient and more across his releases as Toro y Moi, Les Sins and Plum over the past 10+ years. The new EP finds him exploring Americana in a way that he’s only hinted at in past releases, a fitting genre through which to dissect his upbringing in the South.

Sandhills marks another chapter in Bear’s continued sonic evolution — one that promises a reinvented Toro y Moi with each new body of work. It’s somewhat of a return to his roots after collaborating with some of pop’s most exciting stars, including Flume, Blood Orange and Tyler, The Creator, among others.

Listen to Sandhills and watch its accompanying short film above now.

About Sandhills:

Toro y Moi’s Sandhills is both a tender love letter to Chaz Bear’s hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, and a poignant, bittersweet acceptance that one can never really go back home. Recalling Sufjan’s Seven Swans or Karen O’s soundtrack work for Where The Wild Things Are, these loping folk-pop songs are themselves a sort of Saturn return, reminiscent of Bear’s first handmade CD-Rs as Toro y Moi. Bear gave them out to friends in the earliest days of the moniker, the releases stuffed in the Case Logic visor of their cars, and each listen brings a little more of that detail to life: the mall after which Sandhillsis named; the teenaged friends spending aimless hours there, full of big ennui and bigger dreams; the late-capitalist decline and empty big box stores of Sandhills today.

Chaz Bear, Toro y Moi, is now a globally beloved indie-pop icon. But “Sandhills,” with its banjo and lap steel flourishes and its wide-eyes wonder, concedes that you never quite totally rid yourself of those adolescent blues. You might just, if you’re lucky, develop better mechanisms (or delusions!) with which to handle them. “Sidelines” tells the tale of aesthete putting himself through the high school football gauntlet. Even the closing novelty track “Said Goodbye to Rock n Roll” has all the makings of a Chris Stapleton hit if you just squint a little. Clear eyes, full hearts, sweet jams, can’t lose. Lyrically deft and deceptively heartbreaking, Sandhills may be a brief pit stop between grand statements from Bear, but it’s brimming with rust, guts, big moods and love.

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