After releasing a debut album in 2008 that was favorably compared to Joy Division, one might reasonably expect that Crystal Stilts wouldn’t bother breaking from a successful formula. Yet from the very first notes of the group’s sophomore album, In Love With Oblivion, it’s evident that the band’s members somehow avoided the trap of stagnancy. Though lo-fi bands from Brooklyn now seem even more popular than Chuck Taylor shoes or Ray Bans, Crystal Stilts deserves recognition for pushing the genre’s boundaries and conventions.
Though the album has all of the typical underpinnings of lo-fi music (fuzzed-out guitars and vocals, slow, marching drumbeats, loping bass beats), it has a distinctly retro feel, pulling strongly from ’60s beach-pop and ’80s punk. Despite these constants, it’s difficult to pin the influences down to one genre, and at times the band goes in some rather surprising melodic directions.
For starters, there are some truly upbeat jams, which are completely uncharacteristic of a band like Crystal Stilts. “Half A Moon” and “Shake The Shackles” in particular are songs to which you can (almost) dance. “Flying Into The Sun” goes in an even more melodic direction, with a jangly, poppy guitar loop supplying the song’s main weight. There are even a few prog-rock moments, including a weird, spacey keyboard riff in “Shake The Shackles.”
You have to congratulate the band for not falling into the trap of producing a carbon copy of its previous record even after critical success. Crystal Stilts hasn’t broken from what made it good in the first place—but In Love With Oblivion proves that the group is coming into its own. Maybe lo-fi isn’t the washed-out gimmick we all thought it was.