Crystal Antlers Two-Way Mirror
What Crystal Antlers’ debut, 2009’s Tentacles, lacks in coherence, it makes up for in energy. Unfortunately, the California band’s sophomore effort, Two-Way Mirror, sports too much of the former and far less of the latter. Aggressively psychedelic, yet chiseled and concise, it’s a welcome distillation of the mad splatter of demented keyboards, pounded beats, dreaminess, and screaming that typified its predecessor. At the same time, Crystal Antlers sounds best when it’s going overboard—and Two-Way Mirror rarely does. Still, the album has its sporadic high points. “By The Sawkill” is art-garage whiplash at its finest, and frontman Johnny Bell stabs his jagged poetics into the mangled, carnival-esque jazz-punk of “Always Afraid.” The shapeless, sketchy vignettes “Way Out” and “Sun-Bleached” don’t do the disc any favors, but at least they reveal a much-needed glimpse of personality. But after a decade of excellence from like-minded groups such as Liars and TV On The Radio, Crystal Antlers can’t help but sound like a mildly intriguing afterthought, even if Two-Way Mirror holds the line in hopes of greatness to come.