May 30, 2012 11:08

taking a listen

crystal-bright

reviews of the moment

CRYSTAL BRIGHT & THE SILVER HANDS — Muses & Bones

There’s a persistently nervous energy that courses through Muses & Bones, the follow-up to the eponymous debut by the eclectic Greensboro cabaret-fusionists Crystal Bright & the Silver Hands. Maybe it’s the byproduct of the group’s frontwoman Crystal Bright in her quest to flout convention; she stitches together a wonderfully spooky sound via her spectral, pitch-perfect wail against an arsenal of exotic instruments like the adungu, bombo, saw and concertina amidst her go-tos, the piano and accordion. Or possibly, she just wants to challenge the listener with unconstrained theatrical pop weirdness for weirdness’ sake, simply because she has the talent to do so. The amazing thing about Muses & Bones, however, is that its take on weird is really good. It manages to have both feet planted firmly in the avant garde while exploring interesting melodic and rhythmic ideas that remain accessible, if sometimes a little creepy, all throughout. The gypsy-twee opener “Especially Your Mother” is a hypercaffeinated “What happened?” letter that keeps a keen sense of humor through its muted trumpet and quirky tagline. By the first time you hear Bright really exert her stratospheric range on “Drowned Out,” you were sure she had already pushed her voice to its peak on the opener’s climax. But that’s what Muses & Bones does; it challenges to the very end, expanding the listener’s tolerance for the bizarre with the introduction of every new sound and every ghostly touch of vocal reverb/

85/100

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