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On Second Listen: Crystal Antlers – Crystal Antlers [EP]

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As 2008 comes to a close, the sun will set on what was a very good year in music. Reunions were abound, brand new bands with debut albums broke through the mold and the overall buzz on the streets carried this year strongly. With that being said, a few of these up and coming bands sizzled and burned on the underground and kicked up a racket that everyone seemed to be picking up on. One of these newest groups, Long Beach, California based indie rockers Crystal Antlers came right off the frying pan and into the inferno.

With their recent signing to Touch And Go Records, the California quintet is hot off the trail into blazing a psychedelic pathway of glory. From their equally stunning debut EP Crystal Antlers, it seems this cadet of indie rockers have moved up from conventional musical stylings and progressed a bit heavier than their counterparts. For starters, the EP’s opening track “Until The Sun Dies (Part 2)” paints an impressionist portrait with a neurotic paintbrush. No two notes sound the same and vocalist/bassist Jonny Bell sounds harmonically lost in a musical wind tunnel. Think The Mars Volta with surf boards. Bell’s vocals fit well with the tidal wave of sonic aggression that’s constructed here. Guitars and drums beat faster as if in a disjointed high school marching band. Nonetheless, the excellent and well-executed surf tones ring loudly over the psychedelic adventure.

The Crystal Antlers block party gets even deeper with the next cuts “Vexation” and the EP’s best tune “A Thousand Eyes”. Bell’s vocals become much broader and the band reaches stronger levels of musical complexity and heightened tensions. It’s clear by this point that not only do the band enjoy mixing together dashes of noted colors, but they know how to start and stop at pinpoints on the dime.

The EP ends with a breath of fresh air with “Owl”, the Mars Volta aggressively influenced “Arcturus” and the closing number, “Parting Song For The Torn Sky”. For the young California five-piece, the sky truly is the limit, as cliche as that is. Regardless, the tides are turning in favor for the band and the floodgates are open for business. By far this is an unexpected release, but it’s a good start for a band that is capable of so much more to come.

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