Review Summary: The Academy Is... impressive overall on their second album. They've created their own sound (which is NOT "emo," stupid people) and well, I happen to like it. This is my first review so no mean-spirited comments, please.
In a world of cardboard cutout "emo" bands, The Academy Is... is making a name for themselves as one of the most original acts around. With the release of their sophomore album, Santi, they are proving that they're more than just friends of bands like Fall Out Boy.
Where Almost Here was a record about growing up, Santi is a contrast, asking the question "Well, we're grown up... what now?" The record manages to cover everything from a feeling of unity ("Same Blood") to a feeling many bands go through, of shaky fans and critics who can't seem to make up their minds on tracks like "You Might Have Noticed"- ("Realization, I am not what you thought I was/You change directions every time someone judges us").
Even with all these themes running through the record, Santi contains a few ready singles for everyone such as "We've Got a Big Mess On Our Hands," "Neighbors," and if you want to slow it down a little, "Everything We Had." Don't be mistaken, those aren't the only good songs and this isn't a feeble second CD. Every song is strong and well-written, with intense and truthful lyrics from William Beckett and catchy, skilled instrumentals. As opposed to most "emo" music, this band isn't just strumming guitar chords; with Michael Guy Chislett on their side, they have new effects and melodies that actually take skill to play and fitting harmonies from Mike Carden. Even their bass line has a tune to it instead of just note-note-note-note that anyone could play. Each member displays their own skills without stealing the show; Andy "The Butcher" Mrotek, this being his first time writing a drum part for the band, shows that drums can be melodic instead of just beats, especially on tracks such as “Bulls in Brooklyn” and the bonus track “40 Steps.”* And finally, lead singer William Beckett never fails to impress with his vocal feats, especially on "Big Mess" and “Sleeping With Giants (Lifetime),” not to mention the appropriate backup vocals (mostly from Mrotek and Chislett) that don't take away from Beckett's voice or prove to be unnecessary, but instead add clarity to the sound. This collaborative effort from each of the five members shows that the band just wouldn't be the same with a different lineup. They have a balance of influences such as The Smashing Pumpkins, U2, and Led Zeppelin evident without actually sounding anything like these bands.
So what isn't good about this record? Well, admittedly, there are a few lyrics that may cause some listeners to roll their eyes like "Bulls In Brooklyn" ("don’t say you’re more than this, or above all this/With your blah blah blah and all your friends"). But other than that there's really nothing to complain about, unless you're one of those pessimistic people who's never happy or open to new music. And if you are, well, I guess you're out of luck. Look, I’m not telling you that this is the best thing you’ll ever hear, because it’s probably not and I can’t change your opinions. What I am saying is you should always be open to new music, especially when an artist has put forth a record like this.
*”40 Steps” is a B-side from Santi. In my opinion, this may be their best-written song. But that’s just me. But if you like them even a little you should give it a listen :)