Posts Tagged ‘crystal stilts’


Recent Releases Rounded-up: Black Hearted Brother, The Stargazer Lilies, Youth Code, Wooden Shjips, Sean Proper, more

November 21, 2013

More recent release reviews at THIS PAGE.


Black Hearted Brother: Stars Are Our Home

As if knowing the debut album by alumni of Slowdive (!) and Seefeel (!) could hardly live up to expectations, Black Hearted Brother decided to far surpass them. Quite simply, this might be the best shoegaze album I’ve heard all year. It very well might even be the best indie/rock album I’ve heard in the last ten, but that would risk committing some pretty bold hyperbole. So let’s leave it at the best 2013 has to offer.

Drawing from krautrock, shoegaze, space-rock and 60 years of pop music traditions, soaring melodies glide over expansive sonic landscapes that somehow manage to be evocative of the past without being derivative (though “If I Was Here To Change Your Mind” definitely takes a page from the Spiritualized songbook). Ironically, this might be the only shoegaze record in the last few years that doesn’t bear almost too-strong a Slowdive influence. At times the album toes the stadium rock line (Verve and Suede are hinted at), but the mood is kept intimate and sincere.

Bands like Arcade FireColdplay or Muse could take a lesson here on how to paint with broad, epic strokes without coming off as brash poseurs and do gentle without seeming like ineffectual drips—but I doubt they’d have much interest in doing so. Anyway, Stars are our Home is a ball hit way out of the park.

5 Space pop masterpieces out of 5 Master shoegazers back at work

The Stargazer Lilies: We Are The Dreamers

If you were, say, a shoegaze stormtrooper, We Are The Dreamers is the shoegaze you’re looking for. Don’t let any strange old dream-pop Jedi hermits tell you otherwise. Do these ex-Soundpool members lay it on thick as honey? Sure, they do. They may as well have named the band The Shoegazer Lilies. But thank god. Melodies! Washes of filtered reverb! Sweet as nectar vocals! It’s everything great about nu-gaze front-runners Soundpool (and Slowdive and Cocteau Twins, naturally), but refined and distilled into a tonic to rival the best releases on 4AD and Creation in their heyday. If not for Black Hearted Brother, this would be the shoegaze record of the year.

4.85 Languid psychedelic waterbeds out of 5 Dream ships aloft on solar winds

Youth Code: Youth Code

This could very well be my new favourite record of the year. The year in question being 1987. Though in that case it has some stiff competition with Front 242‘s Official Version and Nitzer Ebb‘s That Total Age. Not to mention Skinny Puppy‘s Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate. These are all artists referenced by the brilliant EBM revivalists Youth Code who take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to the genre. Gloriously regressive and devolutionary. True, there’s nothing quite as immediately catchy as “Headhunter” or “Violent Playground” on the LP (though “Let The Sky Burn” is pretty damn close), but it’s not entirely necessary to have earworm hooks in EBM—just that jackhammer, chest compressing, beat and that mechanical bass sound peppered with guttural screams and old movie samples. Plus, it gives the duo somewhere to grow on the next album which I’m already salivating for.

4.875 Cyberpunk jackhammers out of 5 Howling emaciated Belgian canines

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Very Late and Increasingly Redundant Best of 2011 List, part 1: 25 Best Albums

January 12, 2012

best of 2011

I’d like to pretend this Best of 2011 list is extremely late because I was cleverly trying to avoid the year-end glut of self-indulgent posts by legitimate music reviewers (and not-so-legitimate music bloggers). The annual “look at my impeccable taste” sweepstakes wears pretty thin by January 1st.

But the reality is I just didn’t feel like any ten or so titles stood out enough to write about. Plus I’m lazy and scrolling through all the albums on my iPod to see who didn’t get deleted after a week seemed like it was going to be pretty hard on my thumb. The irony is, as my thumb scrolls down the list right now, I see there aren’t ten clear stand-outs because 2011 was a pretty strong year.

So here goes my list of iPod survivors. Apparently there’s 25 of them.

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Crystal Stilts: In Love With Oblivion

July 21, 2011

Roll: 1-12-5
Album: Crystal Stilts, In Love With Oblivion

When I worked at the university newspaper I got in an argument with Dave the A&E editor about whether or not it’s good music reviewing technique to reference other artists in a review. He took the high road saying your words should evoke the sound of the album on their own. It’s a nice theory, but in practice it lends itself to the kind of stream of consciousness gibberish Pitchfork has popularized.

Myself, I prefer it when reviewers just tell me who the album sounds like. Cut to the chase. After all, pretty much everything has been done before by people who were reinventing the wheel. It’s a little disingenuous to describe an album with flights of poetic fancy suggesting it’s something special. If the impossible happens and you’re actually reviewing a new artist who is entirely unique, fair enough, use poetry to describe the album.

Crystal Stilts‘ new album is pretty damn good, but it’s not terribly original. But in honour of Dave, I will attempt to describe the album without name-dropping the obvious influences that went into making it.

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New Dogs + Old Tricks

June 1, 2009

Everything old is new again in the perpetual post-modern age we live in. From homage to pop-culture archaeology to outright plagiarism, there seems to be an ever dwindling gene-pool of new ideas in art. Popular (not limited to top-40 “pop”) music seems to especially have become a stagnant, inbred shadow of it’s former glory. Rock’n’roll has been feeding off its own bloated corpse for so long, bands are deriving sounds from derivative sounds which were derived from sounds perhaps not entirely original to begin with.

Take a band like White Lies. Perhaps the young band which has best approximated an 80s post-punk/new wave record since young bands started reviving the sound ten or twelve years ago. Early-comers to the game Interpol, Editors, Bloc Party, Stellastar* and The Killers all borrowed the smooth and fuzzy synth sounds of the new romantics, the heavily chorused/flanged/delayed guitar of new wavers and, for street cred, some rote stark nihilism borrowed from Joy Division to go along with their haircuts. But they also seemed to borrow equally from more recent alt-rock and indie sounds from both sides of the Atlantic to create a not quite carbon copy. Now you hear bands influenced by Bloc Party and The Killers popping up and the slippery slope of diminishing returns has lead to a sludge pile of uninspired inspiration. White Lies has almost escaped this fate by cutting out the middle man and pillaging from the source material. Japan, Ruran Duran, The Cure, a little of the de rigueur Joy Division and a lot of Modern English are all flavours which mingle on their debut album. So much so, there is scarcely an original note to be distinguished on the whole perfectly executed disc. If you didn’t know better, you could believe this was a lost Modern English album from their high period. It’s highly enjoyable for someone (like myself) who wishes there were more Modern English albums, but it’s also infused with a sense of redundancy. And this seemed to be the state of modern pop/rock/indie music in 2008.

2009, however, has been quietly suggesting just because music is being rebuilt from the rusted chassis of a tired old car, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a fresh new ride with really comfortable seats, an engine that purrs and can take you exciting places. Here’s four new releases that travel down routes pioneered by others, but are still managing to carve their own path.

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