Last time you caught Crystal Stilts, you probably remember them for a bit of angular fuzz pop, featuring Brad Hargett’s throaty vocals, haunting every inch of Alight of Night. Then several members went on to make a bright bit of pop with Cinema Red and Blue, but now they’ve all returned to the fold. Despite their various whereabouts, the group have constructed In Love With Oblivion, possibly the darkest mark of their short career.
Atmospherics start off the record on “Sycamore Tree,” and despite a steady bounce to the drums, thematic darkness immediately sinks into the mix, as those acid-house guitars churn the noise forward. Hargett’s vocals sound somewhere between Morrison and Curtis, an image of despair in and of itself. Although we begin with this foreboding feeling, we’re soon thrown into a bit of ballroom glitz, were it to be thrown on the Day of the Dead. Surely the underlying elements of pop were meant to be disguised, offering another look into Crystal Stilts‘ idea of oblivion, obscuring the clarity we’re used to with our pop.
It’s definitely refreshing to find the band experimenting a bit here, as they appear to do on “Alien Rivers.” While you’ll find some psychedelia living on the floor of the track, the spoken word delivery tends to lead you from ghost town to ghost town, darkening your soul as you listen to In Love With Oblivion. Other bands might continue to churn out those fuzzy-scuzzy pop moments, but that ominous tone to this definitely provides listeners with an expanded understanding of the group’s efforts. But, Crystal Stilts can’t stay away from their bread and butter for too long, as those elemental urges will finally break through on the record’s latter half.
“Half A Moon,” perhaps concocted after album artwork was chosen, pushes the emotional pace, and those organs still provide a hint that there lives a brighter moment in our future, despite how dark we find our world, or our music. You’ll find the happiest moments, musically speaking on “Flying Into the Sun,” utilizing bright guitars and a cloudily pounding guitar to push forward. Just because Hargett sounds haunting doesn’t mean we can’t eek out a bit of happiness. Then you blast on through “Shake the Shackles,” the record’s first single, and end up finding yourself on a downward emotional spiral. With a title like “Death is What We Live For,” it’s hard not to feel a bit down about yourself while listening here, even if the music offers you a peak at the sun as the Moon rounds the Earth. You’ll want to stomp your feet and jam, but if you listen closely to the lyrics you’ll be stomping your way to musical damnation.
Listening to In Love With Oblivion can be difficult to take in at times, as its offerings are much darker than your usual fair, if not in lyrics, then in emotional toll. But, getting to meat and potatoes of the album is easy to do, allowing you to lift yourself in and out of that darkness, extracting the great musical moments that bounce throughout. Admittedly, it’s possibly not the record for everyone, yet Crystal Stilts have constructed something here that will have you operating on all kinds of tangents: oblivion, darkness, pop, psychedelia, etc–and provoking music, even emotionally so, is a definite must in this day and age.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/07-Shake-the-Shackles.mp3]
Download: Crystal Stilts – Shake the Shackles [MP3]