Published on September 21st, 2021

Crumb by Third Pupil

Crumb epitomize the stoner meanderings of bedroom shoegaze music. They sound like what it feels like to be high at home while looking through a drawer of ephemera collected over a short lifetime. In that sense, they sound like our teenage years — but that phase in its quiet and reflective moments, or at least in what teenagers think of as self-reflection.

Others have picked up on Crumb’s indebtedness to ’60s psych rock and their sometimes jazzy, improvisational bent. But this wide-ranging indie pop combo from Brooklyn, N.Y., will also veer into ’90s trip-hop territory at moments. It’s not quite Portishead; it’s a little too mellow for that group’s spite-infused balladry. Crumb makes a more direct invocation of Mono, whose dreamy and less dire trip-hop variations were used to such brilliant effect in the 1998 movie version of “Great Expectations,” with their 1996 song “Life in Mono” as a gorgeous narrative centerpiece.

Crumb are emerging from the pandemic with a new album, “Ice Melt,” and a maiden single, “Trophy,” that are their first releases since the long-ago summer of 2019. The wistful “Trophy” arrives with a strange, nonlinear video that drifts from live action to animation as it riffs on the song’s contemplation of loneliness. “House, car, bed, trophy/Someone there to hold if only,” Lila Ramani sings in an ethereal, submerged voice while standing at an awards podium.

Ramani, Jesse Brotter, Bri Aronow and Jonathan Gilad are hitting the road for a lengthy U.S. tour that stops at III Points in Wynwood in October. It’s a show of determination that we’ll get to make up for lost time after last year’s lockdowns and now a Delta wave crashing into “Hot Vax Summer.” As our blurry quarantine nightmare recedes, a clearer picture of artistic achievement comes into view: Crumb aren’t the only ones who used the unavoidable downtime and situational anxiety to create beauty. If anything good has come from the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, it might be the rebirth of live music with a vengeance — a return to touring, a fervor for in-person art and, hopefully, a new respect for conviviality and presence of our fellow beings.

Crumb play the III Points festival, October 23 in Miami. ~ Tim Moffatt

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