The debut record from Shantih Shantih may be titled Winter in September, but these songs wouldn’t sound out of place in a dusty ghost town. Here, sweat evaporates within sun-baked songs of heartbreak and simple but blistering guitar solos act as vultures, picking off any stragglers seeking refuge. All hope isn’t lost, however; Anna Barratin’s blissful singing matched with harmonies from the rest of the four-piece break through the haze like a peaceful oasis. In short, this record might be occasionally scorching, but it’s not too hot to crack a beer, throw on shades, and enjoy the ride.
Winter in September has been a long time coming. Shantih Shantih has been playing around Atlanta for three years, not to mention a trip to SXSW and a quick tour through Europe. Within that time, the only sample of a studio performance was the “Ruby” 7-inch on Italian imprint Shit Music for Shit People. Both songs are included on the new record, which was recorded over a two-year period.
Despite the time span, Shantih Shantih were able to write and record an album with a strong identity. Though it exudes evolution, Winter in September feels present and perfected, not like a record which has been sitting on a shelf for months. On “Forge,” for example, the band delivers one of the most interesting vocal melodies on the record while still relying on the infectious call and response guitar that made “Ruby” so catchy.
Shantih Shantih ride the same wave as many of the girl groups spawned from Burger Records, but even though their music is grounded in ’60s groups like the Chiffons, it feels like a natural direction for their talent rather than an orchestrated effort at revivalism. Much like their contemporaries La Luz, Shantih Shantih are able to put their own spin on the sound, successfully avoiding the dangers of parody. Some of the this can be credited to Peter Furgiuele, guitarist of Gringo Star and Barratin’s husband. Winter in September was recorded at Furgiuele’s home studio, which allowed for a great deal of creative license. Known for his own spin on the ’60s, Furgiuele’s energetic rock and roll cuts through the pop elements and adds a kick to some of the softer moments on the album.
Despite their tumbleweed nature, Shantih Shantih’s tales of wandering are tightly wound, closer to Tom Wolfe’s conversational meanderings than Louis L’amour’s grandiose landscapes or Sergio Leone’s blood-soaked canyons. This isn’t a complex record, but it is diverse, and the straightforward nature of the tracks clarifies Shantih Shantih’s ability to mix surf with spaghetti western rock and emerge on the other side with a gorgeous pop album.
Shantih Shantih will perform on Saturday, June 4 at the Caledonia Lounge in support of Thayer Serrano. The Hermies open the show. Doors open at 10 p.m. Admission is $8.