It's too bad that the Academy Is... have one of the more unfortunate names of the whole early-21st century Chicago emo scene, since they actually sound like they could be one of the few to outlast the rest. Their sophomore effort, Santi, picks up where the well-received Almost Here left off, but instead of just rehashing the pop sweetness that appealed to so many Warped Tour attendees (though there's plenty of that, too), the guys incorporate more grit and muscle into the mix. The record has a more varied and self-assured feel to it, and though definitely still poppy, considering Butch Walker sat in the production chair, it's almost surprising the glossy sheen isn't blinding. But that's a good thing. "Same Blood" is a peppy little number that manages to be simultaneously expansive and wholly grounded, owing much of its earnest charm (as with most of the crew's songs) to the winsome vocals of William Beckett. He's a bit more playful this time around and his confidence lends itself to the rest of the album, where songs sparkle with freshness. Cuts like the spunky "Neighbors" and alternative rock-leaning "You Might Have Noticed" show the guys mixing their youthful yearning with a more straightforward rock backbone, and a confident cool is allowed to invade the swaggering (and surprisingly well-done) "Bulls in Brooklyn." Even when the Academy Is... amble into the dancey territory of "LAX to O'Hare" -- a song that seriously evokes Communiqué -- the vaguely post-punk vibe and brittle guitars remain more fun than overdone. The thing with this Windy City crew is that it never seems like they're trying too hard or being unnatural, which makes songs that don't quite hit the mark -- as in "Sleeping with Giants (Lifetime)," where echoing guitars cut out into a fluffy chorus that kills the mood -- easier to take. An enjoyable next step for the Academy Is..., this album shows that the guys are still growing, but maybe just starting to figure themselves out.
AllMusic Review by Corey Apar