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Music Review: Crystal Stilts – Alight of Night

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Amid fuzzy guitars, awkward and distant vocals, and a hazy sense of boredom, Crystal Stilts’ Alight of Night is quite an interesting piece of work.

The band, out of Brooklyn, is sure to polarize listeners. Having dropped out of the sky in a bundle of shoegaze ennui, Crystal Stilts got their shit together in 2003 and released a debut single called “Shattered Shine.” With Brad Hargett on vocals and JB Townsend handling guitars, Crystal Stilts started to really pull together as unit when they added Andy Adler and Frankie Rose of Vivian Girls.

Playing a string of shows and releasing an EP highlighted a very busy 2007 and 2008 for the crew, as pretentious outfits like Pitchfork started to lap up their distinctive sound. As a band, Crystal Stilts started to click through the Brooklyn scene and, in October of 2008, their debut full-length was released.

Alight of Night features all of the minimalism and fuzziness that fans of the band have come to expect. It is transcendent, hypnotic, fleeting, but at times very, very boring.

Vocalist Hargett factors heavily in the overall sound of Crystal Stilts. He is removed, staring down at his Converse, and uninterested. He is also dreadfully fucking compelling, engaging us with his disengagement and pulling us in with his words that sound as though they were recorded in a bathroom stall in some hollowed-out meat factory doubling as a nightclub for poor kids.

“The Dazzled” starts off the album with a clap-along roll of guitar and layering, beaming up and down with a catchy rhythm and steady bass. Hargett snugly fits in the background and, fittingly, mumbles lyrics about distance.

“Crystal Stilts” beams in with a bass-line that almost tags New Order, while Hargett’s uneven vocals match the tentative guitar perfectly. And the oddly active “Departure” is offset by Hargett’s sense of removal. Bouncy as the track is, he still doesn’t want to be here. “I discern a subtle stream converging in the quiet,” he sings narrowly.

The debut single, “Shattered Shine,” appears as well. Its layered guitar and sound works well to mask Hargett’s voice.

Reference hounds will find a bucket of influences present in Crystal Stilts, yet none of them will fit too accurately. There is a smidge of Velvet Underground, a dash of New Order, a bit of Gun Club, and a dose of Pin Group and yet none of the bloody references actually fit. They are, I suppose, their own absurdly disinterested animal of sorts. They are… well, whatever.

Spellbinding, graceful, dreary, detached, and altogether inimitable, Crystal Stilts have created a lovely album worthy of several spins. Fair warning, though: it’s not driving music.

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