Santah / New To Us, New To You?

Words by Brendan

Have you ever seen a band live and really loved it, but then the band’s music gets lost in the wayward times of your life and you forget about them until like a year later and you notice that they’re playing your city again but you can’t go due to work, but then you see that they just released a new EP and you go and listen to it and you remember why you loved seeing them in the first place? Yeah. That happened recently with Santah and me. Their perfect pop music has earwormed its way into my head, and I’m waiting for that vinyl EP of theirs I just ordered to make its way to my door. Check out that EP here and read on for some more thoughts!

Santah played at Club Café in October 2011 with Army Navy, an indie pop band whose albums I really dig. I made sure to check out the show and was not disappointed. Army Navy played great; lots of energy, just as expected. Santah followed their set and I stuck around to see what they were like and, oooooh yeahhhh, they delivered in a similar fashion: catchy pop, creative melodies and lyrics, boundless energy, the reel-you-in/je-ne-sais-quoi factor … It was great. Seeing so many shows and constantly scouring for new music, though, I kinda lost track of Santah. That was my bad. A big mistake.

Fast forward to just this past month. Santah released a new five-song EP, You’re Still A Lover. You can find a stream on their website/Bandcamp, or order a 12″ vinyl version via Chicago’s Saki Records. They even played another Pittsburgh show, at Garfield Artworks just a few weeks ago. (Sadly, I missed it!) Let’s talk about that EP.

Santah / “Springfield” / You’re Still A Lover EP / Live at Audio Tree

The first thing you hear is the catchy drumbeat and bass walk of “Springfield”, but it quickly gives way to a perfect piano line and then Stanton McConnell’s vocals. He’s decidedly a pop-rock singer— hitting every note just right and belting out “Dover” like he really means it—but there are doo-woppy rises (“You’re still a lover-rrrrRRR”) and psychedelic echoes (“I’ve been to Neptune, I’ve been to Ear(ear-ear)th”) in his voice, and they do these songs wonders. Meanwhile, the organ twirls and warbles and sheds asteroid dust on the voice of McConell and his sister, Vivian. It’s gorgeous. “Teeth” is more of an upbeat, rhythm-driven tune, with the drums and acoustic guitar strums driving everything forward. Somehow, everything falls into “North Coast”, which starts out almost mellow but quickens pace later, only to explode around shouted vocals (“I could just die! I could just die!”) and then … it just … twinkles away. “I Love The Way You Seal A Deal” reprises the bass prevalence and sneaks in a simple but wonderfully-placed piano part that floats down onto the end of the chorus. This beautifully guides everything into the closing track, “Indigo”, swelling up and down in mood and tempo and rounding out the EP with some soaring vocals and shimmery guitars. The lyrics, too, are intriguing and have me listening closer and closer.

What catches my ears about this EP is the use of hooky little bass lines, piano tinkles, vocal rise-and-falls centered on particularly compelling lyrical moments, changes in the prevalence of percussion matched with similar swings in the overall mood of the song … In short, everything about these songs falls into perfect place; it’s clear Santah has put a lot of forethought and rehearsal into these well-arranged indie pop songs, or else they’re just naturally gifted songwriters, or both. The lyrics, themselves, are totally compelling, too. I’ll let you listen in for your own interpretations, but I’ve noticed some themes of travel, displacement, memory and wistfulness, revenge, commitment, love and solitude … The melodies pop, the vocals burst, the subtleties find a way but don’t overpower. Every listen yields something new to my ears and my heart. This is exactly what I’m looking for in new music.

Listen to the album on their site, and order the 12″ EP / CD, too. You will not be disappointed. Here’s hoping they come back to Pittsburgh again before too long so I can catch them once more!

Santah on the web: Website / Facebook / Twitter

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