Nick Santino has always had a voice that fit perfectly into the pop/punk genre.
Back in the days of A Rocket to the Moon, the simple ba-da-ba-ba-da-da-daaa (or however you hear it) hook featured in “Dakota” left fans singing the chorus on repeat endlessly. After the group ran its course, releasing a pair of full-lengths and a handful of EPs, they split in 2013 and Santino later went solo with Nick Santino & the Northern Wind.
Now, that Northern wind has blown through and Santino has returned with his first album as a solo artist with no other tags or titles. With this new freedom, however, comes a new risk – all eyes are now on him.
On Big Skies, the high, sharp vocals that Santino practiced in his earlier endeavors continue to find solid footing in the alt-country world.
The record opens on “Bad Taste,” a smooth, stuttered semi-ballad that, contrary to the name, goes down easily. Santino’s voice is calm and soft, with a sly smile almost audible through the music.
“Gone Like Yesterday” gives the first glance of a more country vibe – plucky guitars, a little bit of twang, and memories of drinking with old friends. As it fades out, it [literally] steps into “Jackson Browne,” a creaking, piano-graced piece that is a standout of not only the record, but Santino’s entire catalog.
The constant sense of wanderlust, heard mostly on tracks like “Back to Where I’m From” and the stomp-along “Long Way Home,” compliments both the sound of tracks and the genre as a whole. On “It Is What It Is,” this desire for travel is still strong, now backed by a flattering female vocal counterpart and a fiddle solo that is wildly enjoyable.
The need for travel is a two-sided feeling. On one hand, there is the hope for heading home, for going back to something. The excitement of being back in a familiar place after time away is a great feeling, and we hear this on the more upbeat “Long Way Home” and “Back to Where I’m From.”
Contrarily, travel isn’t always heading home; sometimes it’s about leaving. Musically, “Can’t Say I Miss You” juxtaposes something quick and upbeat with lyrics such as “So give it up and say goodbye / sell my things, I don’t want them. / And I wish you well, I’ll be just fine / ‘cause you’re an empty house that I’m haunting / and when I’m gone, I won’t be coming back around.” The aforementioned “Jackson Browne” is the story of a man haunted by memories of someone who left, while “Have A Little Faith In Me” asks for a second opportunity.
Album closer “She Don’t Miss Me” is the calmest, most somber point Big Skies offers. Santino’s voice is soft, nearly inaudible at times, crooning over the struggle between his lifestyle and his lover. Much like the relationship he sings about, the song ends abruptly, leaving the listener a bit frozen and wondering if there could have been just a little bit more.
Big Skies is a cheerful, catchy, and, at times, heart-wrenching storybook of travel and transition where we witness Nick Santino truly finding his footing in the pop/country genre. And with it, he stands a great chance at being a frontrunner within the sound.
Release Date: May 27th, 2014
Runtime: ≈ 40 Minutes
Check Out: “Jackson Browne,” “Can’t Say I Miss You”
1. Bad Taste
2. Can’t Say I Miss You
3. Gone Like Yesterday
4. Jackson Browne
5. Keep On Going
6. Back to Where I’m From
7. It Is What It Is
8. Have a Little Faith in Me
9. Long Way Home
10. Mood Ring Eyes
11. She Don’t Miss Me
Written by Eric Riley