Crystal Stilts: Nature Noir (Sacred Bones) album review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #47 - September/October 2013 - MGMTCrystal Stilts

Nature Noir

Sacred Bones

Sep 18, 2013 Crystal Stilts Bookmark and Share

New Yorkers Crystal Stilts emerged back in 2008 with Alight of Night, an album on which everything from the scratchy surf rock guitars to the distant, clattering drums to frontman Brad Hargett’s dejected baritone had been drenched in so much reverb it almost sounded like it had been recorded underwater. The band were promptly labeled shoegazers, C86 revivalists, Jesus & Mary Chain wannabes oblivious to the fact that they were from ‘00s Brooklyn as opposed to ‘80s Britain. It was all somewhat baffling, considering both Alight of Night and its 2011 follow-up In Love with Oblivion borrowed far more heavily from the droning, psych-tinged rock of the late ‘60s and ‘70s than it did the likes of My Bloody Valentine or The Pastels.

With their third album Nature Noir, the musical magpies continue mining the pre-punk era for influences, losing some of the fuzz for a sharper, less frantic soundthough Hargett seems as profoundly dispirited as ever, Jim Morrison meets Jim Reid in a tiled bathroom at a miserable house party. Lead single “Star Crawl” is distinctly reminiscent of Iggy Pop or David Bowie’s ‘70s output with its swingy staccato guitar hook and spacey fills; meanwhile, the title track is probably the strongest on the album, all quivering strings and mournful, jangly hooks that climb up and down the scales as though too anguished to settle on a direction. “Future Folklore” and “Electrons Rising” have the driving rhythms and twangy licks of early Kinks, injecting much-needed doses of energy to an album that otherwise feels pretty lethargic.

Crystal Stilts have always seemed to rely a little too much on their metal-edged, retro guitar tone, using that as the point of interest rather than the quality of the songwriting, and this problem is more pronounced on Nature Noir than it is on their previous releases. There are a few genuine gems on the record, but you have to dig around for them amongst a lot of tracks that meander about, exulting in their own nostalgia without really going anywhere. (

Author rating: 5.5/10

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