The world suffers no shortage of indie rockers in love with loud guitars. However, it is immediately clear why the California-based label No Sleep picked Santah from the pack, reissuing their originally self-released debut White Noise Bed this year. The album, and the band is alive with ambition, much of it triumphantly realized.
There’s a tendency among Santah’s indie-rock peers, past and present, to hobble themselves with irony and self-deprecation, to restrain themselves short of appearing audacious. Santah, to their credit, do not suffer this. They are in giddy thrall to the possibilities of the electric guitar, applying old-school solos where they suit (as on the swinging, Motownish “Cold Wave”) and summoning surging washes of effects when suitable (as on the minor masterpiece “Merry Ann,” which begins as a soulful ballad and ends as a psychedelic epic, evocative of the late ’80s Creation records sound of House Of Love and My Bloody Valentine).
Among their contemporaries, Santah’s closest kin are probably Okkervil River, with whom they share a fondness for unpredictable structural detours and sardonic lyrics — Stanton McConnell’s vocals also have something of the deadpan whoop of Will Sheff. At their best, though, they are a beguilingly original rewrite of older, more hallowed indie-rock influences. “Bat Suite”, for instance, shifts gears several times and evinces some of the willful opacity of early R.E.M, while “Chips Of Paint” suggests The Go-Betweens interrupted by Dinosaur Jr.