There's an unrelenting sense of sincerity and passion upon first listen of Crystal Antlers's full-length debut, Tentacles.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly. Part of it might have something to do with lead singer and bassist Jonny Bell's emotive vocals that, from time to time, switch between cries and screams to the world. Part of it might also be the accompanying simple and bare instrumentals that are neither artificial nor glossy, yet providing such filling sound.
The Long Beach, California-native six-piece (including guitarists Andrew King and Errol Davis, drummer Kevin Stuart, organist Victor Rodriguez, and percussionist Damian Edwards) doesn't force their music to be of any particular sort. The opening "Painless Sleep" offers a brief glimpse of what the band can do at full throttle with the rare organ providing the backbone melody to a structured, chaotic musical jumble.
Much of the album, in contrast, centers upon a minimal lingering sound that resonates all the way through to allow Bell's words to appear at cherry-picked moments. It's a stretch, sure, but it's the only way to explain how Bell doesn't seem as if he's just wailing through "Dust" and "Time Erased" with the same inaudible grunts. Surprisingly, the songs actually work despite their outward uniformity.
It isn't until "Andrew" (see music video) that you begin to appreciate the band's soul/psychedelic form, as well as Bell's vocal restraint. It would be easy to go overboard on the emoting of garage punk, but the beach-culture environment seems to have instilled a collective casualness that often borders on sedate. I won't hypothesize another reason, but the subdued carnival-like "Memorized" could prove to be the deal breaker.
The band livens things up near the album's end. The cluttered "Your Spears" could be construed as a manic attempt to create disorder, while the epic "Several Tongues" roars like a tame version of a Doors track. Crystal Antler's Tentacles is a remarkably consistent album that bridges soul with the sublime.