The Lowdown: Brooklyn-via-Boston quartet Crumb came together in 2016 while studying at Tufts University. Lila Ramani (guitar, vocals), Brian Aronow (synth, keys, sax), Jesse Brotter (bass), and Jonathan Gilad (drums) joined forces to bring a collection of songs previously penned by Ramani to vivid life. The result was 2016’s Crumb and 2017’s Locket, two delicately woven EPs that soothed and transfixed audiences both online and in person with a singular recipe for ethereal, jazz-laden psych-rock. Even the smallest spoonful of Crumb’s easy listening could lead to a languid trip down Alice’s rabbit hole. This overwhelmingly warm reception among listeners, coupled with two years of incessant touring, led Crumb to link up with producer Gabe Wax (Fleet Foxes, Soccer Mommy), recording their first-ever LP, Jinx.
The Good: With just one LP under their belt, Crumb know exactly who they are. Such unrivaled confidence in their early sonic identity allows the psychedelic orators to bewitch the ear more than ever before. Unexpected, lysergic left turns are guided throughout the work by Ramani’s lyrical self-reckoning. The stakes are higher; the anxiety is deeper; the instrumentation is more meticulous; and the songwriting is more direct.
Ramani’s hypnotizing recitations on “Nina” tell the all-too-familiar tale of putting on a facade for the outside world while trying desperately to fill the void within (“Something’s up with Lee/ She’s lying through her teeth/ She hides it underneath/ Buying things that she don’t need”). The musical accompaniment, a steady drumbeat, a svelte electric piano, and a spellbinding reverb echo the dizzying headspace of Crumb’s coy vocalist. Elsewhere, tales of a burning-hot romance in the heat of the ephemeral summer are matched with Jonathan Gilad’s pulsating drums, a frenzied climax of sizzling guitar riffs, and a crash into a solemn finish. All in all, Crumb build beautifully layered compositions that reinforce their foundation as a new force to be reckoned with in the industry.
The Bad: While Jinx is never onerous, the album’s consistency sometimes toes the line between a solid piece of work from start to finish and a 10-track blur. Somewhere around the “The Letter”, Crumb’s kaleidoscope teeter on the edge of becoming indistinct background noise, begging the question: Can Crumb’s oft-described “chill” beats be, in a cruel twist of fate, too chill?
The Verdict: With Jinx, Crumb successfully play snake charmer to the disquiet of the mind. Summoning a beguiling groove from Pandora’s music box, Ramani, Aronow, Brotter, and Gilad intoxicate with melodic twists and turns that slither out of the speaker, coiling around emotional and mental landscapes we’ve all fallen victim to at one time or another. A self-assured sound married to self-analytical songwriting makes Jinx the masterful soundtrack to those seemingly endless, restless nights. If only my anxious thoughts were as lovely a listen.
Essential Tracks: “Nina”, “Ghostride”, “M.R.”, and “Jinx”