Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
I’m in love with lots of things: garage-band production (literally, like you record in a garage…maybe one with tin walls); vocals like echoes from the bottom of a well; and bass notes that make your head list one direction. Little has changed for Crystal Stilts since 2008’s Alight of Night, though maybe the guitars cheered up a bit. That’s A-OK; they come through with such a sort of oblivious, Suicide-meets-Spiritualized feel, you’ll be in love, too.
Crystal Stilts come from a breed of band that might as well be labeled “record store rock”. In a way, their sound is what you’d expect to be hear played at your local indie record shop, perhaps marking the presence of the clerk who works Saturday afternoons, or whenever you stop in. It’s garage, it’s psych, it’s indie, it’s basically the sound of any band heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground and all their notable followers.
Here’s a fallacy that has possessed the current wave of garage pop revivalists: to atone with the hippie ethos, the compositional structure has to sound as effortless as nature intends. Seeping its seeds with dainty choruses and merry smiles, those slacker-fied guitar clanks and tinny pounds would most likely guarantee an opening slot at the Monterey Festival. But what goes after that? It happened to the best of them: The Seeds, ? and the Mysterians, and The Trashmen all had a premature demise because they couldn’t figure out how to broaden their mid-afternoon enlightenment after a twelve hour slumber.
In Love With Oblivion, the new album by Crystal Stilts, opens up like a runaway stagecoach. The first track, “Sycamore Tree,” cuts in with a country boom-chuck and then a sinister Duane Eddy riff. Over it all, lead singer Brad Hargett moans like a ghost rider in the sky, luring his lady friend to the sea for no good reason at all. By the time the organ arrives, leering and brash, you know these guys are just sick enough to make it all come off like fun.
On their debut, Alight of Night, Crystal Stilts concocted an instantly recognizable noise pop meets '60s psych sound built around fuzzy guitars, swirling organ, huge amounts of reverb, and Brad Hargett’s vocals, which are deadpan to the point of wanting to check for his vital signs. For the follow-up, In Love with Oblivion, the band wisely decided not to change much. Apart from Hargett and guitarist JB Townsend getting the rest of the band (bassist Andy Adler, organist Kyle Forester, and drummer Keegan Cooke) into the studio this time, really the only difference is in the details.
Load [b]‘In Love With Oblivion’[/b] into iTunes and it labels it as post-punk. But, though there’s certainly a reverb-drenched darkness to [a]Crystal Stilts[/a]’ second effort, the offerings here are just as much post-garage, post-Velvets or post-Spector as they are indebted to the dark wanderings of the late ’70s. Where 2008 debut [b]‘Alight Of Night’[/b] swooned in on a wave of surf-tinged guitars and a simple, rhythmic swagger, [b]‘ILWO’[/b] capitalises on the band’s melodic talents and embraces them tenfold.It’s not so much a departure as just, well, better.
CRYSTAL STILTS play Sneaky Dee's May 22. See listing. Rating: NNNN Inching ever popwards following their blissful 2009 single, Love Is A Wave, New York City five-piece Crystal Stilts get even more melodic on their sophomore album.Opening with an unsettling György Ligeti-esque crescendo, In Love With Oblivion is a more lucid take on the qualities that have made the band a favourite among record-collecting types, namely their affinity for mixing quaking, late 60s garage with 80s shoegaze wallflower vocals.
What's up with that guy's singing, anyway? That question was tossed around quite a bit back in 2008, when Crystal Stilts emerged as one of the more interesting acts in the lo-fi Brooklyn jangle-pop pile. On the band's debut LP, 2008's Alight of Night (as well as the preceding Woodsist-co-released self-titled EP), frontman Brad Hargett often sang in a tone-wary, bass-heavy voice, his vocals cloaked in enough echo to nearly smother his dark incantations. However, you didn't really need to know what he was saying (or, for that matter, what key it was supposed to be sung in) to dive deep into the lonely, dark, and difficult-to-inhabit world of Alight of Night.
I really am not what you’d call ‘cool’. Not just false modesty: really, really not. I like cooking risotto and getting slightly too involved in TV shows. I’m so incapable of navigating Hoxton that despite having worked there, every single time I go I get lost. Crystal Stilts, meanwhile ….
With their sophomore effort, In Love with Oblivion, Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts assert themselves as a unique presence in the modern noise-pop revival. Considerably less precious than labelmates the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, far less abrasive than No Age, and nowhere near as romantic as Beach House, Crystal Stilts differentiate themselves from the herd with scuzzy, garage-rock charm and dissonant cool. Stylistically ensnared somewhere between the Byrds and the Jesus and Mary Chain, Crystal Stilts specialize in juxtaposing sunny jangle with cavernous feedback.
Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts have taken nearly three years to release a full-length follow-up to 2008’s Alight of Night. However, In Love With Oblivion has been worth the wait. The release was expected to introduce listeners to a much more expansive sound for the band, and it does. Utilizing lead singer Brad Hargett’s signature warbling vocals and jangly instrumentals, the album will please previous fans and entice new ones.