Coated in double coats of twang and fuzz, Santah is one of those bands that take hold of the eardrums immediately and reward with more ecstasy upon subsequent listens. White Noise Bed, their debut full-length, comes steeped in all of that cool pop rock stuff that earns comparisons to the likes of Vampire Weekend, but at the core of the record is a rich heart that defies hipster culture and speaks to real people.
It's probably too early to say where Santah is heading with respect to a career. I’m not much of a fan of limbs, after all, and I deplore going out on them. These cats, though, met at the University of Illinois and come with influences ranging from The Cars to Whiskeytown—and maybe a touch of Wilco.
What we have with White Noise Bed is more than the sum of Santah’s parts or influences. The record is a sprawling one, yet it is a patient one. It doesn’t scream out to be heard. It sits, almost quietly, across the bends in the sofa and sings without making a fuss. But as the notes and tones dig in deeper to the cushions, you can find what’s lurking inside these pieces of music.
Santah is guitarist/vocalist Stanton McConnell, drummer Steven Plock, bassist Otto Stuparitz, and keyboardist Tommy Trafton. Stanton’s sister, Vivian, has since joined the club with her vocals and guitar.
The sleeve of White Noise Bed is filled with well worn pictures of domestic life. It’s somewhat weird yet altogether friendly and approachable. There are odd smiles, a dog and a BBQ. Kind of like the music of Santah, the pictures offer a glimpse into lives that are altogether ordinary and remarkable.
Under normal circumstances, White Noise Bed would be a pop rock record left for the dustbin of history. But the band delivers with a soft psychedelic edge, toning things in and out with clever riffs, small patches of jamming and Stanton’s impressive vocals. On tracks like “Overgrown,” he ventures throughout the octaves and blends curiously with the other instruments.
At other points, the band is mysterious. “Bat Suite,” for example, is a swaying piece of rock music that features unsettling but gorgeous vocal blends. The riffing is stupendous.
So while indie bloggers and hipsters will doubtlessly mark ground with Santah, don’t be deterred. On White Noise Bed are songs that, like the photos in the sleeve, are well worn, detailed and strangely tender. The sonic flight, like life, is sweeping and involving until the end.