Crystal Stilts at the Empty Bottle / by Doyle Armbrust

Standing at the sticky lip of the stage is not the ideal vantage point for a Crystal Stilts show. No, you’re better off on one of the Empty Bottle’s stools, disappearing a Wild Turkey and wondering when the hell you’re going to leave that soulless day job.

That’s not meant pejoratively. The band sets an engaging, desolate atmosphere, replete with jangly, delay-heavy guitar riffs. In other words, it’s the soundtrack to a night at the dive, best imbibed over empathetic conversation or a slide into oblivion. Brad Hargett’s reverb-submerged vocals are the K-hole of rock lyricism, a sonic tunnel through which the band’s lyrics are echoed, often incomprehensibly.

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from the Brooklynoids. Three years to be exact, and for the band’s sophomore effort, In Love with Oblivion, the aural washes have been focused into more compelling detail. Opening with what sounds akin to a B-movie opening-credit roll, Oblivion dives right back into the Las Vegas blackout presaged by the Stilts’ debut, Alight of Night.

In sharper contrast are the drums, the pacing here more deliberate and less likely to be erroneously tagged lo-fi. White-washed cuts like “Silver Sun” and “Flying into the Sun” expose a less bleak side to the band, offering an effective foil missing on Alight. Just make sure to grab a seat at the bar before everyone else wises up.

- Doyle Armbrust

published in Time Out Chicago on May 18th, 2011