Release Date: Nov 15, 2011
Record label: Sacred Bones
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
Crystal Stilts have always been ahead of the contemporary indie pop learning curve. When most of their peers were products of the widely beloved C86 tape in 2008, the Brooklyn quintet was namedropping the Clean cofounder David Kilgour's the Great Unwashed. The components that make their sound are fastidiously plucked from early-1980s Manchester (Joy Divison) and New Zealand (the Clean, the Chills), late-1960s New York (the Velvet Underground), and-- in cases including but not limited to singer Brad Hargett's hair-- early Bob Dylan.
For a band that had been in existence a good five years before attracting any kind of recognition, Crystal Stilts have firmly established themselves since as possibly the most consistent purveyors of lo-fi garage dreampop currently treading the boards. With two excellent long players in the bag, this year's In Love With Oblivion demonstrated a depth far beyond those early Jesus & Mary Chain comparisons, and they've ended 2011 with arguably their most ambitious collection of songs to date. Taking the ambient route already explored on 'Alien Rivers' and 'Precarious Stair' a tiny step further, the five songs that Radiant Door is comprised of shows the band's pensive, if occasionally exploratory side.
After already releasing one great album, In Love with Oblivion, that cemented their place as one of the better garage-noise-psych bands around in 2011, Crystal Stilts returned with an EP near the end of the year that certainly did nothing to affect that standing. Radiant Door was put out by Sacred Bones and featured five tracks that range from songs that have the same spooky, reverb-heavy vibe and rhythmic punch of the album (“Dark Eyes,” the title track) to a haunted ballad that conjures up (and borrows a guitar part from) the Velvet Underground (“Frost Inside the Asylum”) and two very well-chosen covers: the first is a rollicking and loose version of the Blue Orchids' “Low Profile”; the second is a twangly take on the Lee Hazlewood-penned Sanford Clark song “Still as the Night” that proves vocalist Brad Hargett could have a second career as a crooner of country death ballads. He should stick to reverb psych-pop, though, since he’s got a really good thing going there.
Crystal Stilts’ previous albums swirled together ‘60s pop and garage, deadpan Joy Division vocals from lead singer Brad Hargett, and sonic murk, and their latest EP, Radiant Door, is no different. The EP begins with ‘60s organ, hand claps, and acoustic strums; a simple, stripped-down drum kit pounds throughout; it ends with a slow ballad that pays homage to the Velvet Underground with a guitar riff very close to “Some Kinda Love” (from Lou Reed and co.’s third album). The Stilts cover of “Still As the Night”, originally written by Lee Hazlewood, works well.
The Crystal Stilts’ sophomore album, In Love with Oblivion, saw its release this past spring, but the Brooklyn-based band is not closing up shop for the year just yet. Call them garage rock, jangle pop, or shoegaze, but whatever it is, there’s no mistaking Brad Hargett’s Ian Curtis-like, reverberating vocals laid over an organ and some tambourine, which lets them showcase a sunnier side. It all remains well within the realm of their sonic space that recalls bands like The Velvet Underground without imitating.