“Nature Noir” marks the third and most significant release from New York’s Crystal Stilts. However, if I were to tell you that this album sounded similar in structure to both 2009’s “Alight the Night” and the 2011 release “In Love with Oblivion” you may think me quite mad for awarding this album a hefty 4 stars our of a possible 5. Can a third album of 60’s psychedelic indie mixed with a large helping of post-punk still sound fresh?
Allow me to elaborate and explain why “Nature Noir” works.
Crystal Stilts have a very unique sound. Brad Hargett’s vocals can be, if we’re completely honest, a little monotone and one-dimensional. That isn’t to say they lack passion but they do tend to enter the realm of a depressed Daughn Gibson or an under the weather Morrissey. But it’s these vocals that work so well with the quite incredible instrumentation and beautiful melodies on this and the other albums.
And why is this is a significant release as I so boldly stated above? Simply put, its production and content are overwhelmingly impressive. To take so many layers and produce music of this quality would require patience and abilities way above that of any bulk-standard studio. It feels as though it has been cleansed of the feedback and noise from previous releases. It’s a calmer affair but importantly still sticks to the bands song writing principles. Some fans may see this as a step backwards but importantly this is not a change of direction. The Crystal Stilts ambiance is still there.
There are moments on this album that leave you wondering how the brash vocals of Brad Hargett can produce moments of such beauty. Take “Star Crawl” for instance. It cleverly draws you in and you find yourself being completely hooked by the hypnotic guitars. There is no need for feedback, reverb or echo, its stripped back but still clearly a Crystal Stilts invention. And that voice? Well, it’s as much part of the track as the drums and strings and at no point would they work without each other.
The title track “Nature Noir” is the same … beautiful strings (almost Beech Boys like) that compliment a wonderfully simple melody. Why add more when the simplicity of the song is its greatest feature?
There are of course more animated moments. “Worlds Gone Weird”, “Spirit in Front of Me” and “Darken the Door” are clearly a return to previous albums and contain the drum-work and atmosphere of 2009’s “Departure” or “The Dazzled”.
The formula throughout the album remains the same as its predecessors. Some would say that this is a lack of musical ambition but I disagree. If you, the listener, can battle through the vocals (and for some that will require a little patience) there is a band on the other side who continue to mature as song-writers and musicians, and surely that’s the most important thing here.
The full track listing for “Nature Noir” is …
Spirit in Front of Me
Sticks and Stones
Worlds Gone Weird
Darken the Door
Download: Nature Noir, Spirit in Front of Me and Star Crawl
Rating: 4 out of 5
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