Touted as one of the pioneers and leaders of the “freak folk” movement of the 2000s, Castanets is also known for their ever changing line up. Sometimes a few members, other times a full-fledged band but most of the time, one sole band leader; Castanets is still one of the most unique bands on the market.
San Diego-born and raised, Raymond Raposa’s music as Castanets is fittingly gripping. City of Refuge seemed so much like an intimate listen that it felt almost unfair to be sharing this music with Raposa. And while it packed a stiffly weighty punch, there was much to be desired. So, if that’s the album about solitaire relations, Texas Rose, The Thaw, and the Beasts is an equally weighty album with the corresponding heavy music to boast. So in essence, if this comes off as saying that this is Castanets best album so far, then so it is.
Nothing left to be desired here; in blunt terms, Texas Rose, The Thaw, and the Beasts is a victoriously awesome album. Folk is easy, sure, but Raposa covers so much space in the span of 39 minutes; the only other way of describing such diversity is by pointing out its sheer eclecticism. At first, the sharply bright rhythm at the start of “Worn from the Fight (With Fireworks)” could sound like a skipping CD but it reveals itself as the song’s unnerving pace. And later, while Raposa has help in the form of a gentle-voiced female, the sparkling guitar lends a glistening effect.
But mostly, Raposa’s music is especially affected by his confident use of style shifts and universally powerful methods. The opening of “Rose” delivers on the preface of a quiet guitar and Raposa’s gin-soaked voice. Female singers that remind one of Dirty Projectors, a country shuffle reminiscent of Okkervil River and a closing horn section of who knows what, Raposa is focused and conscientious in his approach. And as he sings, “No mother, I’ve never felt so good, having married the world,” it climaxes into a song that is still resourcefully careful and boldly audacious.
While we’re at it, we might as well point out how much of a credit it is to Raposa in the way he rehearses and creates his music. A continuous work-aholic, his music has, in the same sense, continued to grow within his craft. And even when it’s a simple interlude (“We Kept Our Kitchen Clean and Our Dreaming Quiet”) seamlessly flowing into its ensuing passage, (“Down the Line, Love”) each move is gradually better than the previous. On the latter, the piano’s gleaming line is a direct copy of what Sufjan Stevens would write, and with Raposa singing to the set of country drums and a bitterly terse guitar solo, the fortune lies in the skill and ability.
There’s a certain kind of magic going on here and it needs to be accounted for. I won’t lie, the first few listens of Texas Rose, The Thaw, and the Beasts will probably leave you coldly affected. And that’s mostly due to its organically natural sound; it demands repeated listens and once fulfilled, it latches on and never let’s go. Raposa’s music has grown and is at the point where we can thankfully agree that he’s peaking; this band of delicate musicians have trustfully devoted a heart-warming album. The only thing left is to find it and let it overwhelm you.