Album Review: Crystal Stilts – ‘Nature Noir’


New York’s Crystal Stilts return with their third LP, and it’s their most complete effort yet; a stunning combination of 60s psychedelia, 80s post-punk and timeless noise-pop.

The band’s first two LPs, Alight of Night and In Love With Oblivion, were warmly received by both critics and fans alike, yet there was always something missing: a certain warmth or continuity. On Nature Noir, the band find what they’ve been looking for and as a result, they create one of the best records of 2013.

Ever since the first single was taken from the album, it was clear that we would be looking at something quite special. ‘Star Crawl’ bobs along with an almost Phil Spector-esque production, with it’s orchestral licks and wall-of-sound similarities, not to mention the spine-tingling backing vocals that bridge the chorus and verse. A truly great first single.

‘Star Crawl’ is preceeded on the album by ‘Spirit in Front of Me’, which is reminiscient of the noise-pop on which Crystal Stilts made their name. It ends in a pyschedelic splurge of keys and drums that the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Spacemen 3 would be proud of. ‘Future Folklore’ is more conventional rock n roll; all 60s garage keys and Chuck Berry riffs, whereas ‘Sticks and Stones’ is hook-laden dream pop – think Real Estate meets Beach House.

As excellent as the jangly, psychedelic pop of the likes of ‘Worlds Gone Mad’ and ‘Nature Pop’ is, it is on the longer, more expansive tracks that Crystal Stilts really excel. ‘Darken The Door’ is all distorted Durutti Column post-punk; disturbing and brilliant in equal measure. Final track, ‘Phases Forever’ is a compelling listen; haunting from start to finish with Brad Hargett’s now trademark deep vocals and climaxing in an epic orchestral sea of violins and keys, not dissimilar to the more accessible work of Sigur Ros.

What we have here in Nature Noir is an album that ought to be added immediately to your record collections. It is an album that samples from the past, yet also forms a distinct sound within today’s music scene. How Crystal Stilts have managed to remain so ‘under the radar’ in the UK for so long, I am not quite sure. Nature Noir, however, will see them break these shackles – A must-have for any music-lover.

Alex Neely

…Alex is listening to Pins – Girls Like Us



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