Remember the scene in Stranger Things when Eleven has to go to the Upside Down via a DIY sensory deprivation tank? That’s kind of what it feels like to listen to Crumb’s debut album, Jinx. The Brooklyn-based band’s music has been described with all the adjectives Tame Impala fans love — psychedelic, trippy, gooey, hypnotic, and some sort of comparison to LSD — but on Jinx, the group uses the tools of their genre to explore the sensations of anxiety.
Take, for example, the album’s opener, “Cracking.” The synth hums as vocalist Lila Ramani begins to wonder “how you keep yourself from cracking / it’s not easy need to practice / night time day / don’t let it get the best of you girl.” The song has the relaxing, hypnotic effects of psych-rock, but the slightly out-of-step saxophone and persistent synthy buzz give you the anxious feeling that something’s not quite right. It’s like if ‘”lo-fi chill hip-hop beats to study to” discovered existentialism.
Crumb came together when the members — Ramani (guitar, vocals), Brian Aronow (synth, keys, sax), Jesse Brotter (bass), and Jonathan Gilad (drums) — met studying at Tufts University in Boston. They’ve since relocated to Brooklyn and, expanding on material Ramani had written in high school and college, released two EPs: a self-titled one in 2016 and Locket the following year. Jinx is their first full-length record, self-released by the band. Crumb was able to release the album without a label because they’ve already garnered a significant fanbase — the band gained a following the way many indie bands do now, the good old internet, and more specifically a Reddit forum.
The album was informed by the experience of two years touring non-stop playing for that fanbase. The title track is, as the band told i-D, informed by a traumatic experience the band had on tour, when two members were involved in a serious car accident. Ramani’s lyrics in “Jinx” explore the way the accident affected the group by writing a fantasy story in which the band is cursed. “I met a dark spirit I know,” she sings, “She found me drifting at the show / The ring she hands has a glow / She comes so close / And says / We all get lost but we all come back.” Ramani’s songwriting is still at the forefront of this album, and syncs perfectly with her bandmates’ instrumentals to create the atmosphere of anxiety. On their jazz-influenced single “Nina,” she paints a portrait of stress – “Something’s up with Lee / She’s lying through her teeth she / Hides it underneath / Buying things that she don’t need,” while her twisty vocals and Aronow’s piano runs make it sound like you’re falling down the rabbit hole.
“Ghostride” is an album highlight, which takes a break from the more psychedelic elements of the record in favor of the band’s indie rock influences and begins with a gorgeous guitar riff. Their latest single, “Fall Down,” also stands above the rest, which leans into the trippier side of things, both musically and with its nightmare-esque lyrics. The album’s 10 songs are distinctive on their own but work to create a cohesive whole, so that after the tight 27-minutes of music are up, the lasting feeling is one of a complete experience. But Crumb recognize that creating that experience with music doesn’t have to feel like a dream. Sometimes it can just amplify how we feel when we’re awake.
Jinx is out now. Get it here.