Genre: Psych-Pop, Jazz Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Cracking,” “Nina,” “Ghostride,” “Fall Down,” “M.R.,” “Part III,” “And It Never Ends,” “Jinx”
For years I imagined an objectively perfect indie pop band that was both wildly talented and artistically informed. In theory it doesn’t seem that hard to start a deeply prototypical but comfortingly routine group; however, having played with numerous bands during my 15-year stint as a multi-instrumentalist, music journalist, venue staffer, music student, internet DJ, college radio station general manager, and professional unpaid intern, I still haven’t found enough people with the obsessive hive mind devotion and profound imagination that it requires to form a band as remarkable as Crumb.
Crumb formed in Massachusetts at Tufts University and relocated to Brooklyn after graduation. Though the group’s four members each individually play pop music with Julliard proficiency, the band is not a product of music school or some kind of industry scheme to create flawless jazz pop; instead, they are just working hard and finding early support with DIY figures like Manny Lemus (behind Richmond-based label Citrus City Records). Crumb did the impossible and made a rising career behind two brief EPs; less than 30 minutes of music split between 2017’s LOCKET and 2016’s self-titled debut were impressive enough to get the homegrown act the traction necessary to sell out larger clubs around the country and garner more than 10 million Spotify plays. As such, the first thing everyone seems to point out about JINX is that it is very short, clocking in at just 27 minutes. It certainly would have been nice to receive a longer record from the band, as fans itched for large quantities of new material for well over a year, but being compact is Crumb’s nature. JINX is further evidence that the band isn’t here to waste your time—they’re not trying to be Paul Thomas Anderson’s MAGNOLIA, they’re instead a great HBO miniseries that practically watches itself and leaves you asking where the time went. The tracks on JINX are also relatively ephemeral, the longest of which, “Part III,” clocks in at just three minutes and 43 seconds. While they have immaculate jazz chops, and it would be easy for them to adopt and justify a jammy disposition, by eschewing excess and trimming the fat on their music, they make songs that are meant to be listened to in full—there isn’t a track on JINX that drags on long enough to make me want to skip it.
Crumb has adopted a reputation as a psychedelic band, which makes sense, as they appear on lineups for festivals like Desert Daze and conjure technicolor soundscapes with their instrumentation. However, their brand of psychedelia doesn’t lean on druggy nostalgia; instead of ornamental sentimentality, Lila Ramani grapples with mind-altering mundanities over a backdrop that is thoroughly current. Crumb’s music is cosmopolitan at the same time that it is hypnagogic and humble. Even the moments that most embrace surreality on JINX aren’t meant for putting on tye dye and taking your EuroVan to the beach. They are instead the type of music that you listen to as you truly acknowledge and meditatively examine your spirituality and emotions. Lyrics like “People come and people go” on “Ghostride” and the title-repeating mantra on “And It Never Ends” sound like the sonic work of an apprehensive René Magritte. Ramani’s lyricism has always been familiarly poetic, but the latest batch of Crumb tracks are the act’s most applicably figurative yet.
As a musician in bands, I am stunned by Crumb’s seemingly effortless ascent to the top of the indie pop genre. Although they have attained the same level of recognition and acclaim as many of their peers, they’ve held onto their authenticity and developed a voice unmatched by any of their contemporaries. Being a Crumb fan after JINX feels the same way that being a Tame Impala fan felt after the release of INNERSPEAKER. There’s something special about the band and I know that it’s only a matter of time until they become a household name. While it leaves me craving more new material, JINX is a dense and resplendent debut from the new face of indie music.