Taking his inspiration from a year-long bout of depression, Raymond Raposa returns with Castanets' third offering of nuanced, off-kilter indie folk. Things are decidedly darker this time around; although his music has always been psychedelic, Raposa's In the Vines aligns itself more with a bad trip than lazy, woozy-eyed stoner fare. This is not to say that the album is a drastic change from its two predecessors, as the minimalist orchestration and subdued vocals often sound quite similar to 2004's Cathedral. Things are simply more distanced than they've been before, with the fragile beauty of Castanets' early material being replaced by something spacy and haunting. Raposa often channels the quiet melodies of Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, particularly during "Three Months Paid" and the slow stomp of "And the Swimming." But while Iron & Wine traffics in acoustic guitars and other rustic sounds, In the Vines also embraces electronics, often fortifying Raposa's slow laments with simple, programmed percussion. As before, there's still an emphasis on the space between such sounds -- even the album's most ornate numbers prize simplicity above all else. So while some songs display the sort of eerie calm that can lull the listener into a semi-troubled sleep, they're nevertheless meant to be listened to, noticed, and reflected upon. As the wash of keyboards and guitar slowly ebbs away from the album's final track, a lone kickdrum remains, issuing sporadic thuds like the beating of an irregular heart. It's oddly unsettling, but the drum keeps beating until the tape is turned off. Raymond Raposa is obviously upset, but -- like that lopsided drum that refuses to quit -- his songwriting still shows plenty of life.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey