by Hipster Hamster Hipster Hamster
May 1, 2010

The last time I really listened to Crystal Castles was just before the 2009 Coachella Music and Arts Festival, as I was prepping for their set. The band rewarded my preparation (and the support of several hundreds of fans) by showing up strung out, a half hour late to their 50 minute set. Alice then treated the huge crowd with off-key, off-tempo shrieks and wails (don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Alice’s screeches when they’re pulled off well on tracks like “Xxzcxuzx Me,” but they were not done so well here), effectively ruining any chance the duo had at pulling off a worthy performance. Needless to say, I was turned off of the band, and their self-titled debut soon made its way to the bottom of my music collection.

Then 2010 rolled around, and a new track began floating around the internet. “Celestica” sounded like Crystal Castles were back in top form, mixing trance synths, glitchy chiptune beats and ethereal vocals. Shortly thereafter, the band’s second self-titled album leaked, and the release was moved up to April 23. Intrigued by the lead single, I decided to give Crystal Castles another shot, and I’m glad that I did.

On Crystal Castles (II), the band does a really good job of balancing sedate, sublime numbers like the aforementioned “Celestica” with abrasive, challenging songs like “Doe Deer.”  The duo never lets listeners get comfortable, jerking back and forth between calm and storm, doing their best to lure the audience into a false sense of security before shocking them with screams, overdriven synths and heavy drum beats.

While the band’s debut did a fair enough job of mixing up relaxed and tense songs, Crystal Castles (II) showcases the band juggling the two opposing themes within the same song. “Baptism” alternates between quiet verses characterized by a throbbing bass line and a glitchy, 8-bit keyboard riff and loud, exaggerated choruses where Alice screams “This is your baptism / And you can’t forgive them” above booming drums and stuttering, expansive synths. Ethan Kath and Alice Glass have certainly developed as songwriters, and do a much better job at balancing cohesiveness and diversity.

One of the key aspects of Crystal Castles (II) is that even though it works from the same basic palette as the duo’s debut (8-Bit Keyboards, some samples, drum machines and some vocals), it manages to remain interesting and engaging throughout. My biggest gripe with the band’s earlier work is that it is fairly homogenous, and easy to get bored of. By making each song more internally diverse, Crystal Castles are able to keep the listener’s attention for the whole 50 minutes of Crystal Castles (II).

The songs on the band’s newest album have the ability to be even more popular than “Crimewave” or “Magic Spells,” dance anthems for the hipster crowd. The duo from Toronto have an ear for poppy hooks and present them through a uniquely distorted lens. I’m sold on this album, maybe even enough to give them another shot live.

Maybe.

Crystal Castles was released digitally on April 23, 2010. It will be released physically May 25, on Fiction Records.

out of 5 weasels.

Choice Cuts: Empathy, Baptism, Celestica

Click each track name for lyrics in a new tab/window

  1. Fainting Spells
  2. Celestica
  3. Doe Deer
  4. Baptism
  5. Year of Silence
  6. Empathy
  7. Suffocation
  8. Violent Dreams
  9. Vietnam
  10. Birds
  11. Pap Smear
  12. Not in Love
  13. Intimate
  14. I Am Made of Chalk

“Celestia”

Visit Crystal Castles online: crystalcastles.commyspace.com/crystalcastles

“Crimewave” from Crystal Castles (I)

“Knights” from Crystal Castles (I)

“Courtship Dating” from Crystal Castles (I)

Never trust a hamster. Support the artist and find out for yourself. WestCoastWeasel.com encourages purchasing Crystal Castles locally at Red Cat Records in Vancouver, B.C, any independent record store of your choice or online here.

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