Rusty Santos - The Heavens
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Rusty Santos
The Heavens

The Heavens is the third album from singer/songwriter Rusty Santos, a fellow who banged around the country trying to find his way until he landed in New York and fell in alongside bands like Black Dice and Gang Gang Dance. He became friends with members of the Animal Collective and ended up recording their last album (which is excellent, by the way) Sung Tongs as well as an upcoming split EP of theirs with Vashti Bunyan. He also teams up with AC member Panda Bear as the duo of Together who perform at fashion shows.

Having said the above, The Heavens is sorta what you'd expect from a close friend and collaborator with the Animal Collective. Mostly acoustic-based, the album is sort of a freak-folk effort with lots of multi-tracked vocals, slightly lo-fi production, some seriously infectious melodies and a sort of free-for-all style that mostly works in the albums favor. Album-opener "This Direction" mixed strummy guitars and breathy vocal stutters with vocals that almost sound like Violent Femmes at times. "Villians" drops a muffled kick beat into the mix under more strummed guitars and Santos sings vocals about being beat up.

"True Prep" seems to revert back to younger times lyrically as well as Santos worries about being looked at as too much of a preppie while the clever "It's" simply hangs on the one word of the title as it moves through equal parts ambient guitar picking and digital noise. As the longest track on the album, it plays with perception by constantly setting up a continued statement that never really arrives (except in the form of undecipherable mumblings).

To be honest, some of the songs on The Heavens basically sound like b-sides from Sung Tongs at their best or someone simply pulling off a not-so-great imitation of the group at the worst. For the most part, though, the album works quite well, and at nine songs and just over a half-hour running length, it never lingers too long in one place. It's clear he's working in a similar musical frame of refenence as his friends, and it sounds like plenty of fun was had in the process.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2005-01-06 00:00:00