Through the past darkly: Holy Ghost, Crystal Stilts, Crocodiles

All music is derivative. Some artists are far more derivative than others, but none of this is particularly bad. I actually admire the creativity in melding influences to produce something that still sounds fresh today. With that in mind, there are some recent releases that, to me, are unmistakably (sometimes in a heavy-handed way) influenced by various older genres or groups. Yet, I like them enough to say that you should check them out for yourself.

Holy Ghost! meticulously recreates ’80s synth pop. The duo of Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser enjoy a relationship with James Murphy and his DFA Records that dates back a decade, before the New Yorkers performed as Holy Ghost! That familiarity with Murphy comes through on the new album Dynamics much as it did on the self titled debut from 2011. That’s not to say Holy Ghost! approaches Murphy’s LCD greatness but the sound does distinguish these guys from the hordes of other ’80s-influenced artists. Best songs: It Must Be the Weather and Okay.

Crystal Stilts has a cool, dark sound. The obvious reference on Nature Noir is the Velvet Underground, though I feel like these guys draw more from the scores of bands from the 1980s and ’90s who themselves copped the Velvets’ sound. That’s still not a bad thing. I’m game for the moody sound and Crystal Stilts has that sultry, spooky vibe I like. Favorite tracks: Future Folklore and Star Crawl.

Crocodiles draws from Echo and the Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain and others from that late ’70s, early ’80s post-punk era. Crimes of Passion, the San Diego band’s latest, is definitely enjoyable pop that shows its teeth at various points throughout the album. The best songs: Cockroach and Teardrop Guitar.

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