Monday, April 11, 2011

REVIEW: Crystal Stilts -- In Love With Oblivion

The noise pop Alight of Night by Crystal Stilts was one of my favorite albums of 2008, so I was eager to listen to their second album In Love With Oblivion, which will be released tomorrow. The album opener, "Sycamore Tree" begins with a building cinematic-style wave of sound. At about the one minute mark the instrumentation becomes a guitar groove that, along with bass, drums and organ, propels the song along with a bit of Ennio Morricone feel. The vocals are a baritone reminiscent of the late Mark Sandman of Morphine. While the song is recognizably a Crystal Stilts song, it also is a clear and intriguing expansion and refinement of their craft. At that point I suspected that I was in for a musical treat.

If the first song was the nibble at the bait, the second song springs the trap and captures me for the duration of the album. Not only is it my favorite song on the album, to my ears it is a power pop masterpiece that ranks as one of the best songs of the year so far. Here is "Through the Floor":

Crystal Stilts "Through The Floor" from Slumberland Records on Vimeo.

The third track, "Silver Sun", is a delightful jangle pop song that begins with the sound of a car crash. The album continues with slower songs such as "Alien Rivers", which successfully merges a vamping rhythm with jangly guitars and an ominous vocal, and the delightfully twangy and jangly "Precarious Stair, as well as faster delights such as "Flying Into the Sun" -- a furious, but still melodic, epitome of noise pop -- and this album highlight: "Shake the Shackles":

Crystal Stilts was founded by Brad Hargett and JB Townsend in Florida, but currently is based in New York. The current line up also includes Andy Adler and Kyle Forester. Frankie Rose (formerly of The Vivian Girls) was the drummer until her recent departure to work as a songwriter and performer in her own group. The band is signed to Slumberland.

Crystal Stilts' sound has always pushed the right buttons for me: Jangle; distorted noise pop; and baritone vocals. This outing includes organs and a touch of surf to go with the psychedelic. While their first album contained several gems, this sophomore effort seems more focused and more varied. The songs don't rely on guitars and style, but include a more noticeable rhythm section and vocals higher in the mix. Even more impressive is the band's ability to craft songs that reflect the musical touchstones from the 60s, 80s and more recently, while still being unmistakably original and unconfined.

"Flying Into the Sun"

Stream the entire album here.


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