In the Vines
he Castanets have a way of ruining your day. They’re the type of group that, if heard early enough in the morning, can effectively demolish your ambition. And while you’d think something that desolate might ward listeners off, there’s also something irresistible about them. As lead singer Raymond Raposa moaned on the group’s 2004 album Cathedral, “It’s all right / To want / More than this.” You inevitably end up wanting more than what they’re giving you. You need more. But alas, Castanets rarely offer salvation—or let up with their harmonic anguish. The group’s follow-up First Light’s Freeze, was similarly engulfed in battered lines and bruised sonics.
In the Vines might even be more crushing. All of their typical sentiments are there, but where their prior releases used spacey interludes and bridges as a recess from the hopelessness, the group employs these moments more sparingly. And when it does, the masses of feedback intensify the desolate nature of the album rather than carry you away from it.
When Raposa sings—a hoarse, dry approximation of Dylan—on the album opener “Rain Will Come,” “So rain will come … So it’s going to be sad and it’s going to be long / And we already know the end of this song” he sounds once again aware of his destructive powers. Built only on a fingerpicked acoustic guitar line and expansive reverb, the song is isolated and distant but seems to echo inside of you.
Similarly, “Sway” is a frightfully domineering track as it lumbers across interweaving guitars, light bells, and soft harmonies. It’s followed by the phasing interlude “The Fields Crack” that only amplifies the longing sorrow of “Sway.” And though there’s rarely a lapse in the morose texture of In the Vines, when the electronic prods of “Three Months Paid” cut through your speakers, they cause sonic amnesia: you forget that Castanets have seemingly been ruining your spirit elswhere.
It’s Raposa’s reprise on “Sounded Like a Train, Wasn’t a Train” when he cries “Out in the backyard / Singing to yourself / As the clouds / Roll out” that keeps In the Vines from breaking your heart completely. The track’s instrumentation sounds like a burden being lifted: the guitars reverberate and float alongside the optimism of Raposa’s lines. It’s the antithesis to “Rain Will Come;” the light at the end of the tunnel.
When the album closes, then, on the bouncing “And the Swimming” Castanets seem to have made a transition. The gentle beauty of the song hints at a future without depression and disappointment. Or maybe this is just their way of bringing you down once again. Either way, enjoy it for a moment—and try to face the day.