Crystal Antlers Two-Way Mirror(Recreation Ltd.) Buy it from Insound
I first heard of Crystal Antlers just after I saw Comets on Fire play one of their final shows. My 18 year old self was a little unhappy to see Comets on Fite go, so I was ecstatic to discover a band that was sure to carry their gleaming psych-rock torch. They played in a similar style, had a reputation for energetic live shows, and were also from Southern California. That, and their debut 2008 EP was astonishingly good, especially considering how much I despised Comets on Fire’s late career choices. It was a return to something I loved, but they still sounded like they were going to push things forward.
Jump forward to 2011, and I’ve completely forgotten about them. In 2009 they released Tentacles, an album that was wildly disappointing. It didn’t have the same raw energy of the EP and went on far too long. I brushed them aside, assuming they’d just disappear. I wasn’t aware of a new album being released until recently, and I apprehensively gave them another shot.
Well, in the end, they leave the job unfinished. They get closer to completion than they did in 2009, but it’s still far from over. They come out of the gate strong, with Jules Story, and the next few tracks hold them to a similar quality. They capture the band's energy, not as well as their debut EP, but better than the full length. After a while, the band falls into an incredibly predictable pattern. The chords in the chorus’s tend to follow the same falling pattern, and the dual percussionists just keep playing the same fills endlessly. Two-Way Mirror begins feeling like an exercise in futility.
Crystal Antlers spice it up at times, adding new instrumentation or melodies. Knee Deep is a highlight, and occurs fairly late in the album. The intro adds some quickly forgotten texture, but the rest of the song is good enough to keep itself afloat. Closer Dog Days is one of the most unique songs on the album, and is also one of the best. That and the few other unexpected turns the band takes are excellent, and it makes me wonder why they don’t take more risks than they do. They clearly pay off well. They take more on Two-Way Mirror than they did on Tentacles, but it’s not nearly enough.
They’re a band that still sounds like they’re trying to find their footing, and it's taking them a while to do it. Maybe the strength of their EP thrust them into the indie limelight a little bit too fast, and they would have been better served refining their sound across a few unheard full lengths before being exposed to higher expectations and pressures. Parts of Two-Way Mirror give me hope for the future, but their seeming inability to hammer out a concrete songwriting method makes me doubt they’ll figure it out anytime soon. They might be fated to put out middling records with the occasional flashes of scattered brilliance.19 July, 2011 - 11:50 — Andrew Baer