The evidence that California trio Crystal Antlers has dialed down their frenetic psych-rock blitzkrieg comes quickly on their third album, Nothing Is Real. First, the skittering organ runs that punctuated 2009’s Tentacles and 2011’s Two-Way Mirror are nowhere to be found, allowing guitarist Andrew King’s textural riffs and live-wire solos to take center stage. Second, singer-bassist Johnny Bell transforms his feral, unintelligible howl into a surprisingly malleable, even pleasant croon on “Rattlesnake” and “Wrong Side.” Sure, Crystal Antlers still executes scuzzy, ’60s-influenced garage punk brilliantly on “Licorice Pizza,” “Persephone” and “Anywhere but Here.” But those buzzy jams sequence nicely with the serenity of “We All Gotta Die” and “Don’t Think of the Stone.” Nothing Is Real’s biggest surprise comes on “Wrong Side” and “Prisoner Song,” however; both of which are clearly indebted to meandering ’90s indie rock and its contemporary resurgence. Yet Crystal Antlers isn’t conforming to today’s blogosphere buzz – instead, they’ve perfected their own blend of acid-fried heft and sun-dappled accessibility.
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