Brooklyn’s garage rock revival continues apace with the up-and-coming Crystal Stilts’ release of Alight of the Night. Brooklyn’s garage-rock revival continues apace with the up-and-coming Crystal Stilts’ release of Alight of the Night. Along with fellow young Brooklynites Vivian Girls (QRO album review) – from whom Crystal Stilts poached drummer Frankie Rose – and label-mates caUSE co-MOTION! (QRO photos), Crystal Stilts have been bringing a fifties neo-garage sound back, first on last year’s self-titled EP, and now with their debut full-length. Original, in its own, nothing-is-really-original, way, Alight of the Night plants Crystal Stilts’ flag firmly.
The first thing one notices on Alight is the removed, old-haunting vocals from singer Brad Hargett, which take English early eighties New Wave mikes, and puts them through fifties speakers. Guitarist JB Townsend brings an echoing garage-road strum to his instrument, but it is perhaps the organ-like keys from Kyle Forrester (Ladybug Transistor, Essex Green – QRO photos) that is the most singularly unique. It does make one wonder what the band does live, where they’re often without Forrester.
All this neo-new sound does leave the pieces on Alight sounding a bit too much like each other, however. The only thing that differs the somewhat simple opener “The Dazzled” from following restrained numbers is that it lacks Forrester’s keys. While the band’s titular track plays more interesting, other, sadder fare feels too restrained, like “Graveyard Orbit” or “Prismatic Room”. “Verdant Gaze” starts out as an overly restrained strum, before getting grander – and better – with Forrester’s organ-keys.
There are some pieces later on in Alight that do refine this sound, such as the strum and beat combo on “The SinKing”, or the moody, echoing vox on “Departure”. But the record is, in many ways, at its best when Crystal Stilts venture outside of their shell. Melodica-like keys and a nostalgic garage-strum carry the brighter nature of “Shattered Shine”. Rose’s tambourine and Townsend’s garage-jangle guitars on “Bright Night” nicely meet Hargett’s echoing, removed, UK New Wave-ish vox. And while the reverberations on the penultimate “Spiral Transit” leave much of it rather muddled, especially the vocals, the band finishes with a flourish on “The City in the Sea”, as it’s fine, enjoyable strum and wistful, even alt-country twang provides a refreshing change.
Having revived and reinvented the neo-garage-rock sound with their friends, Crystal Stilts does face some quandaries in the future: how to distinguish their sound from their fellow Brooklyn travelers, and how to distinguish their sound from their prior music. But that’s in the future, and with Crystal Stilts, the past is today.