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10 May 2013

Album Review: Spirits of Leo. Anastasia.Review by Ellie Sleeper.

When The Sun Hits Album Review:
Spirits of Leo  ||   Anastasia
Review by: Ellie Sleeper
For a one-man project, Ryan Santos Phillips’ work on Spirits of Leo’s debut full-length, Anastasia, is nothing short of spectacular. In it, Phillips delivers a collection of vibrant, moving pieces of ethereal pop. This is the sound of fog parting over the shoreline as young lovers embrace in the surf, at once both cryptic and bristling with life. Even at its chilliest, Anastasia drips with emotion and a sense of romance.

The album opens with a whisper and a brief tease of energy, only to descend into the serene and frigid tide of “Dead Limbs of Winter.” However, after surfacing, listeners are treated to the racing, blistering speed of lead single, “Ghost Story.” While Phillips takes some time to get to this point, it’s an appreciable burst of energy that will reward listeners who trust his craft. The single pays seemingly effortless tribute to every great, jangling pop group of the 80’s and proves that Anastasia is undeniably an album for fans of clean, vibrant, and guitar-centric compositions. It’s also a masterful exhibition of the best parts of Phillips’ sound.

In comparison to the first Spirits of Leo EP, vocals are louder on the full-length, which is a welcome improvement. That said, the compositions and musicianship are never overshadowed by what is being sung. Instead, the radiant sighs serve to complement the straightforward and tightly executed playing. No one source of melody ever cramps or stifles the other, which is fortunate considering how abundant melodies and countermelodies actually are throughout the album.

Vocals do step to the forefront on closing track, “Spirits of Leo.” Here, Phillips echoes the ghosts of Sarah Records and sparser twee pop groups of yesteryear, eschewing his penchant for gauzy waterscapes for a direct and bittersweet acoustic delivery. It’s a refreshing departure and a fitting close to the effort, serving as a memorable campfire coda to snare listeners once more before they depart.

“Idle Talk” also distinguishes itself as another welcome diversion. The focus on orchestral keys and chugging bass effortlessly grounds the song. The frequent dynamic shifts and a soaring about-face roughly halfway through ensure that one’s attention will not wander far. When earlier refrains return, they almost seem brand new.

Once more, Phillips should be lauded for his competence as a solo musician. Every song on Anastasia seems focused and intentional, and the quality is consistent across a broad scope of attitudes and approaches. The concept never feels lost, but few aspects of it are left untouched or unexplored. It is very rare for a debut to feel so confident or skillful, and the end result is truly a feat. 

Overall Evaluation: 10 or A


“Spirits of Leo” and “Idle Talk” 

Goes Great With: 
Wild Nothing
The Sundays
The Field Mice
The Cure 
Pia Fraus

Anastasia is generously available via Spirit of Leo's Bandcamp page 
  under the "name your own price" option...