There are few current bands that I can think of that have received the unanimously positive acclaim that Crumb has. Consisting of frontwoman and primary songwriter Lila Ramani on guitar and vocals, Jesse Brotter on bass, Brian Aranow on synth and winds and Jonathan Gilad on drums, the Brooklyn-based ensemble has been making headlines and selling out venues internationally since the release of their first self-title EP in 2016.
Crumb brings together the characteristic formlessness of psychedelic rock with intricately-jazzy chord progressions and groovy rhythms to develop a unique sound that captivates even the most skeptical of listeners. Despite how vast of an atmosphere their music can emulate, the cohesion of this four-piece is so finitely locked in that even some of the most chaotic moments of their songs have an air of accessibility that anyone can get behind. The sonic attraction this band incites is only enhanced by their meticulously directed music videos.
Until recently, fans have only had the band’s two EPs, “Crumb” and 2017’s “Locket,” to satiate their need for Crumb’s buttery brand of indie rock—and many were hungry for more. To the relief of thousands, Crumb demonstrated consciousness of their fan’s need and, without any promotion, snuck their first single of 2018, “Part III,” onto streaming platforms right as a particularly brutal winter was wrapping up. Followed shortly thereafter by the release of a second single, “Nina”, and the announcement of a long-anticipated LP, entitled “Jinx,” which will be hitting shelves June 14, Crumb increased their amount of available music by nearly 30 percent.
“Part III” is aptly named. After two EPs with a relatively consistent sound—both being the product of Ramani’s songwriting throughout high school and college—the song’s existence alone indicates the start of a potentially long and vast directional shift for these New Yorkers.
From the first measures of an initial listen, you can tell that Crumb has evolved. They’ve replaced guitar-heavy, slow-built intros with abrupt chord changes on a thin synth patch over a muted drumbeat. Before long, though, Ramani’s recognizably melancholy vocal timbre fills your ear and the trademark Crumb sound begins to set in.
After an ominous first verse, a slight drop hits and the spacious tonality Crumb has made themselves known for establishes a presence and the track falls back into the groove of its predecessors. As the song moves forward, more and more of the elements that marked the group’s earlier work come into play including spacey synth runs by Aranow and an abrupt change in the song’s tempo and feel for its latter sections.
Ramani’s lyrics also reflect a form of an open-ended metamorphosis in action: “The color of my face it changez by day / But when the cold comes through it washes away . . . I feel it coming don’t know where it can stay / All I can show you is the peace of mind.” Young and forward thinking, the sound of “Part III” in relation to Crumb’s earlier releases emulates well this sense of ambiguity Ramani is coming to terms with.
Regardless of what specific change Ramani refers to, it is evident that she and her bandmates are maintaining a competent mindfulness of their own place as they have produced yet another homerun of a single. The line “It’s just a feeling” echoes through “Part III”’s outro, illustrating Ramani’s baseline of confidence in her ability to keep moving forward despite her confusion. After all, her small ensemble has yet to disappoint.
For anyone who might have found Crumb’s change in dynamic in “Part III” to be too drastic, “Nina” offers the comforting indication that, to a large degree, they’re sticking to their guns with this album. “Nina” feels like a perfect extension of the EPs. The intro is made up of smooth keyboard chord changes and Brotter and Aranow locked in on a borderline hip-hop beat. Throughout the track more of the group’s trademark elements come to light, including Ramani’s tasteful guitar leads and a long, psychedelic outro.
Crumb’s evolution does manifest in the final product of the track, but in much subtler of a manner than in “Part III”. The most notable aspect of this metamorphosis is the dissonance of Aranow and Ramani’s instrumentation. While these musicians have always contributed strongly to the ensemble’s jazzy aesthetic, they seem to have found a way to maximize it without sacrificing their alignment with the rest of the group. To hear exactly what I mean, you need look no further than Ramani’s brief solo after the first verse. In comparison to a similar part, such as the transitional lead in “Locket,” a slight offset quality to the melody is palpable yet no less smooth.
Evidently, change is in the air for many in this band’s interpersonal sphere. “Something’s up with Lee,” Ramani sings as the song’s first line before going on to explain how “she always speaks to [her] the same / But there’s an itch under her chin / Give it up, don’t let it in.” For this group of young artists, consistent uniformity must be a rarity. Luckily for us, the ambiguities in life only play into Crumb’s free-formed psychedelic stylings.