Release Date: Sep 17, 2013
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
Given Crystal Stilts’ penchant for the morose, neither the title of this third full-length, nor its lugubrious nature, are terribly surprising. Yet whereas previously their moodiness was carried along on a surf-rock wave, this album finds itself mired in melancholia, guitarist JB Townsend and vocalist Brad Hargett drawling their way through the dour drudgery of ‘Spirit In Front Of Me’ and the trippy carnival weirdness of ‘Darken The Door’. It’s not all so oppressive, though: ‘Sticks & Stones’, ‘Memory Room’ and, oddly, the title track add slivers of graceful light to this bleak but captivating collection of noirish tales.Mischa Pearlman .
Over a series of spooky, reverb-soaked albums and EPs, Brooklyn's Crystal Stilts have staked out a place as perhaps the foremost purveyors of dark psychedelic pop their generation has to offer. Their 2011 album, In Love with Oblivion, saw the band perfecting their claustrophobic sound to the point where one had to wonder whether they would just keep repeating themselves until the law of diminishing returns sunk them, or if maybe their next album would do some radical revamping. The EP that followed gave a few clues with the stark, country-tinged cover of the Sanford Clark death ballad “Still as the Night,” but that did little to prepare the band's fans for the shocking amount of refurb the group did on their debut album for Sacred Bones, Nature Noir.
Nature Noir smells the roses. Crystal Stilts, one of the finer and more interesting bands of the past few years, finds themselves reaching out to the yesteryears and dwelling on the past. Nature Noir is deeply rooted in the age of proto-punk, post-punk, and psych-pop of the 60's to late 70's. While In Love With Oblivion was firmly rooted in lo-fi jangle pop good stuff.
Last time we heard from our dour Brooklyn pysch-pop heroes Crystal Stilts, they were covering the Blue Orchids and Lee Hazlewood on a victory lap EP Radiant Door, released just after their fleshed-out 2011 full-length In Love With Oblivion. It was a solid year for the Stilts: two albums that reverberated off each other, grew the band outward (the expansive “Alien Rivers”) and brighter (the exceptional “Radiant Door”) reiterating their already iterative sound. There was this excitement that circled around those two records, even for a band that winked at dusty noise pop gems from all over the world, from 14 Iced Bears to 13th Floor Elevators, from Joy Division to the jangly Dunedin Sound.
Have Crystal Stilts been cut down to size? After the woozy frenetic rock that dominated their 2011 album In Love With Oblivion, the answer can only be ‘yes’. Toning down the raucous noise and settling into a rather comfortable lockstep on their third album sees the five-strong Brooklyn band ditch the sonic boundary pushing of their hazy and distorted blues-based rock. Gone is the chaotic energy of yore; it’s been swapped for a more comfortable pair of dirge-like mid-tempo slippers and the well-chewed pipe of the band’s slow-motion crooner.
Formed in 2003, Brooklyn-based quintet Crystal Stilts have ploughed a largely undetected furrow within post-punk quarters, attracting inevitable comparisons to Joy Division and The Velvet Underground with a dash of The Jesus And Mary Chain, Psychocandy era. Nature Noir is the band's third studio album; debut Alight Of Night arrived in 2008 and was greeted by considerable acclaim with its raw undertones and murkiness resonating well with retro lovers from '50s rockabilly to '80s goth. Follow-up In Love With Oblivion largely kept to the same formula, and further EP’s followed including 2011’s Radiant Door with its refreshing jangly lead guitar riffs melding with Shadows sounding guitar interludes, all alongside singer Brad Hargett’s monotone drawl.
The video to “Star Crawl” floods gorgeous natural landscapes with unsettling day-glo colors, vibrations of orange, lime-green, magenta and yellow twitching in time with a lurching, chugging beat. Bears lumber by, birds preen, members of the band frolic in ocean waves, but everything is phosphorescently, surreally off. It’s a pretty good metaphor for Nature Noir, the Crystal Stilts’ third full-length.
Crystal Stilts have never been shy of revealing their reverence for 80s post-punk, early indie pop and shoegaze. That, and their love for Sixties-style psychedelia has been evident since their 2008 debut, ‘Alight Of Night’, manifested as it has been by the fuzzy guitar lines and organs which permeate throughout the New York-based band’s sound.And third full-length, ‘Nature Noir’, recalls their home city’s underground art movements of the 1960s. The quintet’s affinity for the era seems to pervade this album more than on previous ventures.