Released: 27/10/23 (delayed from 20/10/23)
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 Sandhills is 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 indiepop 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. And the title track has subtle allusions to growing up a Black art kid in the American South: “saved again by calamine/ another bite/ this happens time to time/ i’m spotted white/ maybe it’s just where i’m from/ i always had my guard up/ but hypocrites keep strollin in/ and rubbin on my shoulder”. Even the closing novelty track “Said Goodbye To Rock n Roll” has all the makings of a Chris Stapleton hit if you just to 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.