How do you live in two worlds at once? On Chico, Santah’s second full-length record (released in November of 2015), the Chicago dream-pop group looks inward and pretends it’s possible. The resulting work is a tonally rich, cryptic self-inventory, where it’s possible to both be yourself and see yourself.
Santah identifies themselves by contrast in the world of Chico. They have conversations with various incarnations of themselves, or their “twins.” Former lovers and future children, cousins and crushes, parents and partners all wind up smeared and strewn about the record, appearing as both opposites and same spirit as frontman Stanton McConnell, who sings to them with equal parts adoration, frustration, lament, and libido.
This self-examination sinks Santah into some of their deepest grooves to date. Drummer Steve Plock and bassist Mike Winegardner pin down the arrangements, allowing the band to become substantially more dynamic than on previous efforts. The songs are tonally rich and are elevated by Tommy Trafton’s warm layers of synths and by stacks of blooming vocal harmonies from Vivian McConnell, who further blurs the record’s imaginative sightlines.
Though muscular and texturally dense, Chico's arrangements still feel light and summery. Floating between two planes of the mirror, Santah manages to both find and escape themselves in the lush landscape of Chico. They’re singing two hymns and believing every shiny contradiction.
RedEye Chicago listed Chico in its "10 under-the-radar, must-own Chicago releases from 2015" and Chicago Magazine called it "a stunning comeback" it in its "10 Great Chicago Albums You May Have Missed in 2015," adding that "Santah sounds like Beach House on happy pills, wrestling with self-examination amidst indie pop that's lush, dreamy, and light."