Crystal Antlers

Two-Way Mirror

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After delivering one last album to Touch & Go before the label closed its doors, Crystal Antlers kept plugging away with Two-Way Mirror. Since 2009’s Tentacles was a self-recorded record as well, the production is unchanged, and the band maintains its sense of style and its psychedelic/garage tonality. The biggest difference with this album is in Jonny Bell’s voice. He has evolved into a tuneful singer, albeit a raspy one, and only breaks into a shriek for a few rocking numbers, which are all found on the first half of the album. Besides “Jules’ Story,” “Séance,” “By the Sawkill,” and the title track, the rest of the songs are actually relatively pretty, in a kind of murky, wintery way. Victor Rodriguez’s new replacement, Cora Foxx, plays a strong role in giving the slower tunes a Doors-like air through her organ playing, and, like before, Andrew King's jagged guitars stab through the dreaminess to keep things edgy. The five-piece hits its stride with its most melodic material to date on the ‘60s psych ballads “Fortune Telling,” “Always Afraid,” and “Knee Deep." While these songs all take challenging turns here and there, whether a sax skronk detour or a time signature shift, they highlight Crystal Antlers’ strengths as fragile yet explosive musicians. As a whole, the sophomore album is inconsistent, but when being eccentric is such a large part of a group’s appeal, this is to be expected. Notwithstanding a few weak moments, many tracks are potentially their best. (Bonus points for the classic punk artwork, courtesy of cult icon Raymond Pettibon.)

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