If you were hard pressed to find our generations Tom Waits, a deserving nominee would be the Castanets main singer/songwriter Ray Raposa. Raposa’s vocal delivery is more akin to Will Oldham’s than Waits’ own whiskey-soaked growl, but the ability to change his bands, Castanets, persona from release to release is downright Waitsian. Raposa’s work in the Castanets has been called everything from noise to freak folk, but, to these ears, the Castanets, like Waits, is pure American music.
On the bands most recent Asthmatic Kitty release, Texas Rose, The Thaw and The Beast, the Castanets have made one of the most consistent releases in their career. It’s hard to describe this release, so if you wouldn’t mind humoring me for a bit I will explain what I see in my head as I listen to this album: imagine an almost dead planet with a sole survivor (stick with me!). This sole survivor, let’s call him Ray, composes a set of songs about all that he has lost. From the opening track, ‘Rose’, he sings about a lost love and falling in love with the world and in the closing refrain sings “I am left here to worship on my own”. The record flows seamlessly from one track to another, sometimes allowing for vast open spaces without ever being boring.
In it’s short 39 minutes, Texas Rose, the Thaw and the Beast traverses from the tuneful Americana of ‘Rose’, the clipped beats of ‘Worn From the Fight(with Fireworks)’, the booze-soaked dirge ‘No Trouble’, and Phil Collins-esque ‘Lucky Old Moon’ (some how, with that description, this song is fantastic). I know this sounds like an eclectic blend of styles, but trust me, it works better than you could ever imagine.
Ray Raposa and his Castanets have not only released a cohesive album of Southern Gothic hymns, but also a truly enjoyable listening experience in Texas Rose, the Thaw and the Beast. This is a night-driving must.
Download: Castanets – Rose [MP3]