The sophomore release from Long Beach California indie psych-rock group Crystal Antlers shows definite growth and maturity since their debut album, 2009’s Touch & Go release, “Tentacles”. The band got the short end of the stick with their first release being the last ever new release from Touch & Go, so the buzz and hype of the previous album wasn’t fully realized. With their latest release they seem to have gotten past the run of bad luck and created something with new label Recreation Ltd, that could really get them noticed.
This album is definitely more melodic, and laid back than their previous release; dare I say the band was in a happy place when it all came together. On this release vocalist Johnny Bell has transformed into a “Singer” and really shows his ability on tracks, “Sun-Bleached” and “Dog Days”. The latter being one of my favourite tracks on the album truly showing the versatility of his voice; easy listening tone complimented by the gruff, but still melodic wail.
The rest of the crew consists of Andrew King on guitar, Kevin Stuart on drums, Damian Edwards doing percussion and newest addition to the 5-some Cora Fox on the Organ. The Organ is definitely one of the trademarks of the Crystal Antlers sound and the lone female of the group did not disappoint, especially on ”Seance” which is very busy sounding, kind of like a new age “Flight of the Bumblebee”. I really dig the organ as it makes many of the songs sound old, like saloon music you would hear in the olden days of cowboys and indians. Then on some tracks like “Summer Solstice” and “Fortune Telling” I got beachy pop vibe. Summer Solstice is almost pure 60’s beach pop/ luau music, and the band produced a video that portrays this perfectly (see below).
One of the most emotional tracks on the album is the opener “Jules story”. It’s got heavy drums and Johnny Bell is probably most gruff and wailing on this track; lot’s of reverb and I truly felt the emotion through my speakers. I only later learned that it was written in response to and around the time a friend of theirs, I’m assuming Jules, was unfortunately killed by police. No wonder it’s emotional.
The overall sound of the album is loud, but not overpowering. It does travel through several emotions, despair, anger, sadness to lighthearted happiness and fun. Crystal Antlers may be criticized for being all over the place in this record, but I think it works. They have gotten over past hiccups and have a sound that is enjoyable to listen to. With this album they have the strength of a label behind them, so hopefully they can continue with the momentum and get touring so their fans can see them live.