The JangleBox

Indie, Noise, Shoegaze… Music

Crystal Stilts: Nature noir (Sacred Bones, 2013)

Cuando parecía que los neoyorquinos Crystal Stilts iban a quitarse el mantra del Post-Punk de encima con los primeros temas de Nature noir (2013), nada, lo vuelven a hacer y de nuevo aparece el fantasma del tedio, de los temas a medio construir, de las frases inconexas y de, por qué no decirlo, los temas flojos.
Porque los primeros cortes de su último disco son sobresalientes: Spirit in front of me, Star crawl y Future folklore son arrebatadoramente buenos, en especial éste último. En ellos la banda da rienda suelta a sus nada ocultas influencias básicas: Pop Psicodélico, Post-Punk y la el Rock neoyorquino representado por The Velvet Underground. La Velvet de siempre. La Velvet de sus dos genios, que ha sido una de las bandas más reivindicadas durante las últimas tres décadas, desde Joy Division hasta los Modern Lovers.
Future folklore pasa por ser el mejor tema del disco, una canción en la que los Stilts se dejan empapar de lo mejor de las composiciones de Lou Reed y los acompañamientos guitarrísticos de sus compinches.
A partir de aquí… mejor obviarlo y no decir demasiado. Demasiada irregularidad y una cierta sensación de dejadez que no dice mucho de una banda veterana que debería cuidarse un poco más la selección de los temas que aparecen en sus discos. Al fin y al cabo, creo que ésa es una característica de la música de Crystal Stilts.


Which is not far from the mood Brad Hargett wants to strike with his pitchy baritone. The band aims to draw more inspiration from their outer surroundings this time out. And they do find moments of life here– those flits and wisps when Haggett sings up in a more Dean Wareham register serve him all too well. “Sticks and Stones” and the lite string arrangement on “Memory Room” achieve those sunglasses-at-night-in-a-field vibe. Likewise, “Future Folklore” imagines an amazing world where CCR wore black turtlenecks and eyeliner, with Townsend’s guitar going full swamp rock and the synth switched to a piano for a Little Richard riff. For all its attempts at natural spiritualism, the Stilts get the most exciting when they’re either going full throttle or just drinking in a new surrounding or record. But you know the saying: You can take the band out of the anemic, soul-crushing city…
Most of the record amounts to the sensation of watching someone hold a lit cigarette, limp-wristed, without ever taking a drag. All the morbid vivre the Stilts used to channel, all the filthy corners of NYC that used to be on display have calcified into a sort of stale energy that neither swings nor swaggers like it used to on their debut, Alight Of Night. When Haggart sings on the title track, “Bring your ladder/ Meet me at the top of the world,” the beauty of the sentiment just sort of files in the rest of the album, the rest of the band’s other albums, and the rest of the bands the Stilts love. Even with the reverb dialed down, it’s hard to find a human pulse in the psych-haze “Star Crawl” or the lolling “Worlds Gone Weird”. The heart that Haggart seeks is beating somewhere in the past, but the Stilts’ ennui is now less of a listening experience and more of an chin-scratching observation in gallery of retro ideas. You nod because you catch the reference, and you move on to the next room. Nature Noir is nothing if not a well-crafted, whip-smart record, but it leaves me yearning for the days when the Stilts would put passion into trying to find the pulse. Or better yet, yearning for the days when the pulse may actually have existed” (Pitchfork)

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28 septiembre, 2013 Posted by | Crystal Stilts | Deja un comentario

Crystal Stilts: Radiant door (Ep, 2011)

En cierta manera coincido con nuestro amigo Don´t Eat the Yellow Snow cuando dice que el formato Ep les viene de maravilla a Crystal Stilts. Esto es así porque quizás el formato extendido de todo un Lp se les haga un poco largo. Lo que sí es verdad es que en este Ep, los neoyorquinos se han quitado un poco las legañas joydivisianas de su anterior entrega, In love with oblivion (2011), para entregarnos un Ep algo más florido y variado. A mí me da que en realidad se trata de una colección de temas descartados de aquél, incluyendo un par de versiones. La oscuridad da paso a un ramillete de temas más floridos y positivistas: Dark eyes, Radiant door, Still as the nightcover de Sanford Clark de tonos Spaghetti-Western-. El único vestigio de su segundo álbum lo encontramos en la velvetiana From inside the asylums, que cierra el Ep. Por lo demás, prefiero la oscuridad Post-Punk de anteriores entregas.

Crystal Stilts – Radiant door (Ep, 2011)

“Radiant Door is not a radical departure from that default sound; its Kilgour Brothers-indebted style makes it safe to assume kiwi is still the most important item on their tour rider. But not all groups have to rely on the benefit of reinvention. The non-vocalists of Crystal Stilts are incredibly good at adding a Technicolor flair, crafting arrangements so colorful that they often veer into kaleidoscopic territory. Two of the five songs on the EP feature the quintet nakedly putting its record collection at the forefront of its consciousness, this time in the form of recorded covers. The band’s take on Blue Orchids’ “Low Profile” is a key example of this; it’s faithful enough to the original to be recognizable, but the Stilts’ heavy lifting– as it mostly always does– comes from keyboardist Kyle Forester and guitarist/co-songwriter JB Townsend, the former turning in a simple-but-catchy three-note riff, the latter sounding like he’s been planting Joshua Trees around Brooklyn.
The EP’s other cover, Lee Hazlewood’s “Still as the Night”, finds the band in spaghetti-western outlaw mode, exploring a style they’ve heretofore never tried. The song is spare in a way that’s uncommon to the band. It doesn’t quite work with a singer like Hargett, whose booming voice (that sometimes wavers in and out of key) is far more suited to weathering the band’s stormier moments than trying to fill in gaps. Though “Still as the Night” is a good song that falls just short of being great, it doesn’t stall the band– they’ve always been adept at playing to their strengths, and the rest of the EP’s 21 minutes are full of gleaming keyboard lines and jangly guitars casting sun on everything in sight. For a band that has proven it can do darkness just as well, Radiant Door is exactly as its title suggests– the brighter side of one of America’s best psych-pop bands” (

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24 febrero, 2012 Posted by | Crystal Stilts | 1 comentario

Crystal Stilts: In love with oblivion (2011)

Si en alguna ocasión es significativo conocer el origen de una banda, en este caso, saber que Crystal Stilts son neoyorquinos es más que relevante, porque nunca el sonido de una determinada zona describe con mayor verosimilitud el sonido de ésta. Desde el comienzo típicamente Nugget de Sycamore tree nos damos cuentas de la senda que va a tomar este segundo álbum de los neoyorquinos. Sus trazos sombríos, su crudeza sonora, su voz típicamente joydivisiana, el sonido de sus guitarras… nunca ha sido más claro relacionar a una determinada banda con su lugar de origen.
Pero más allá de estas consideraciones, lo interesante de este In love with oblivion (2011) es su música. Y es aquí cuando Crystal Stilts nos toman por la mano, porque en el disco se resumen muchas de las características e influencias del sonido de Nueva York: Garaje (Sycamore tree, Half a moon, Invisible city, Blood barons), Psicodelia (Alien rivers, Precarious stair, Shake the shackles); Rock a la manera de hacer de NY, léase Velvet Underground o Television (Through the floor, Flying into the sun);  o Post-Punk (Silver sun). Quizás se les fuera un poco la mano a la hora de mimetizarse con la Velvet en un tema como Prometheus at large, pero podemos pasar por alto este pequeño detalle. En cualquier caso, In love with oblivion es un gran disco que nos permite ponernos en contacto de nuevo con una serie de tendencias que conviene no dejar nunca demasiado de lado, si tenemos en cuenta la importancia que han tenido para la música popular del último siglo.

Crystal Stilts – In love with oblivion (2011)

“The murkiness continues to recede on the band’s sophomore effort, In Love With Oblivion, but the menace mostly persists– only, here it feels less introverted and more vivacious, largely due to Hargett’s improvements as a lyricist. Save for the macho bellowing that stains “Blood Barons”, he’s a smarter, more descriptive presence here, whether he’s bemoaning losing a winter’s love to the “Silver Sun” or surrealistically describing a disappearing act on “Through the Floor”. He can be funny, too– like on “Invisible City”, when he sings about crawling into a sarcophagus with a girl before repeating, like a too-clever suspect in the interrogation room, “We know what happened at death/ But I don’t have to say why.” This is all, of course, only when you can understand him– reverb still abounds, and whether this is a feeling triggered by lack of comprehension or listener fatigue in 2011, it comes off as a hampering effect.
The cavernous echo that places distance between Hargett and everything else seems especially out of place when taking into consideration how damn good the rest of the band sounds. Joining up with David Feck, frontman of indie pop vets Comet Gain, for last year’s self-titled LP as supergroup Cinema Red and Blue, clearly served them well, as the singular chugging force that ran throughout Alight of Night is replaced here by tight intra-band cohesion and playfulness. You can practically hear the tightly coiled guitar line and insistent rhythm in “Invisible City” snap against each other, while all the elements contained in “Half a Moon” sway in unison without congealing into a grossly blaring whole. Also, for a band that might never escape the “lo-fi” tag, this is a surprisingly ornate and atmospheric record. The jarring effect of the lovely, reedy woodwind melody that emerges from within “Flying into the Sun” is offset by barely there harpsichord dithering that creates an enticing depth of sound, while the elegiac horn that briefly moans in the middle of the unfortunately titled “Alien Rivers” adds an affecting touch to the otherwise turgid, seven-minute-plus dud. Songs open with creaking bug noises, car crashes, shivering tonal squelches– they’re thinking not just about the song but also how to sing it, in a sense, and the commitment shows.
What about that voice? Well, as a vocalist, Hargett’s definitely made some positive strides. And yet, you wish he’d work up the confidence here to embrace his surprisingly affecting upper register, which was showcased best on the EP’s highlight “Converging in the Quiet”. When that song made it over to Alight of Night, it was under a different title (“Departure”), and Hargett had dipped into a flatlined, momentum-killing vocal black hole. The fact that this is a pick-and-choose kind of band after only a handful of releases is telling, though: Like their contemporaries and the bands of the past that they lovingly borrow from, Crystal Stilts are a band meant more to be cultishly admired than embraced as “big ticket” or any of that nonsense. If, like me, you’re one of the admirers, then there’s plenty to like here. If not, well, give it a shot anyway– who knows, you might find something you like” (

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31 mayo, 2011 Posted by | Crystal Stilts | 3 comentarios

Crystal Stilts: Love is a Wave 7" (Single,2009), Slumberland

De nuevo nos detenemos hoy en el barrio neoyorquino de Brooklyn, que parece ser hoy por hoy el epicentro creativo de los Estados Unidos. Y seguimos centrando nuestra atención en el sonido de Garage con influencias Surf y una cierta estética Post-Punk. Porque esa sería la definición aproximada de Crystal Stilts, banda que bebe en esas fuentes y que en estos días editarán este single con dos temas que no aparecieron en su álbum de debut, Alight of night (2008). Love is a wave es un buen ejemplo de tema Pop con cierto aire ochentero y guitarra repetitiva y rasgada a la manera de Never understand. Sugarbaby tiene un aire más garajero, algo así como una banda sonora de película de serie-B, con el añadido de un órgano muy propio de los grupos que aparecían en los Nuggets a finales de los ´60. La banda actuará los días 29 y 30 de mayo en Barcelona, en el Primavera Sound.

“We’re thrilled to be able to bring you this ace single, featuring two brand-new songs not to be found on their album. Love Is A Wave is a firm favorite of the band’s live show, a perfect two-minute pop nugget in the best punk rock tradition. Fired by an insistent fast-strummed riff, an eager beat and barely-contained feedback, Love Is A Wave is an instant classic that stands tall with tunes like Never Understand and I Heard Her Call My Name in the noise-pop pantheon. B-side Sugarbaby is no slouch either, sounding for all the world like The Clean if they had been produced by Lee Hazlewood back in Arizona in the late 50s. With a spookily evocative keyboard line, breathless backing vocals and undistorted twang, Sugarbaby could be from 1959, or 1969, or 1989. But it’s pure 2009, and another great example of how Crystal Stilts have managed to mine rock’s past and create something entirely new and crucial for today”. (The Passion of Indie Music)
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Crystal Stilts – Love Is a Wave

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14 mayo, 2009 Posted by | Crystal Stilts, Música | 16 comentarios


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