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Crystal Stilts - In Love With Oblivion

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Artist: Crystal Stilts

Album: In Love With Oblivion

Label: Slumberland

Review date: Apr. 13, 2011

Crystal Stilts - "Shake the Shackles"

Playing it cool is so much harder than freaking out. Getting hot and crazy is a risk for a musician; you could come off like a buffoon, make people skip to the next song or leave the room rolling their eyes. But you earn an opinion, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity, etc., etc. No one can accuse Crystal Stilts of getting wacky and whoring for attention. The Stilts construct rock that elicits little more than a tap of boot. They strum away behind Brad Hargett’s sober vocals, as neither drizzle of fuzz nor deluge of reverberation stay them from swift completion of their appointed rounds.

It continues to please some people out there, even if In Love With Oblivion leaves me as blasé as their last album and debut EP left previous Dusted writers. Overall, Hargett and Co. seem to have demonstrated enough cool competence to avoid dismissal. Crystal Stilts have figured out the minimum effort required to make a song feel complete, without ever being intriguingly minimal. The band’s last album made a good run on college radio, and I’ll grant that they’re an excellent band for segues -- any track here could get a DJ from Interpol into The Oh Sees smoothly; or from Let’s Wrestle all the way back Section 25. They’re wingman rock, making better music look a lot hotter.

For a band with a cold delivery that’s based out of Brooklyn, the Stilts must be enduring an incredible amount of peer pressure to go goth, but they haven’t made any radical changes here. Oblivion continues their sole trick: contrasting bright chords with Hargett’s moaning. Straining for insight, I could say Oblivion modifies that orientation slightly. I hear a prim twang to the arpeggios that recalls west coast psychedelia. Maybe they’ve been listening to The Byrds and Love, but detecting those influences in a band that doesn’t have any vocal melodies makes it hard to say for sure.

When I got this disc, I was half-optimistic they could make a big move, be it a jump toward stoic electronics like Section 25 or the sweaty caverns of Thee Oh Sees. Anything but the gazey-jangly-sensitive locus of indie guitars. It’s not unheard of for a band to finally find its way after a few outings, especially when breakouts happen so quick these days. For instance, U.K. act The Horrors started out with an EP and an LP of garage rock mired in unconvincing darkness then took the bomp out of their Farfisa and fuzzboxes on Primary Colors and made a hell of run with drones and krautrock drive. But no such luck.

Crystal Stilts will probably record a fourth release of note in a year or two, another opportunity to turn their lingering profile into something more than RIYL rock. Wake me up if they wake up.

By Ben Donnelly

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