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Crystal Canyon

Portland dream-pop group builds beguiling atmospheres on "Yours with Affection and Sorrow"

by | Feb 13, 2021

Crystal Canyon
Yours with Affection and Sorrow
Repeating Cloud

It’s commonly understood that the stars we see in the sky are dead, their light a kind of celestial farewell we’re receiving long after their passing. But that’s not true. “The vast majority of stars [are] still merrily fusing away, lighting up the galaxy,” wrote astronomer Phil Plait. We can look up at these miraculous balls of hydrogen and helium and thank them for their patience, knowing they’re still out there.

I want to thank Crystal Canyon for a similar reason. On its second LP, Yours with Affection and Sorrow, this Portland dream-pop quartet isn’t interested in the kind of hooks that reach out and grab you by the ear. These musicians are more concerned with creating atmospheres using shoegaze tempos, hushed vocals, enigmatic lyrics and layered guitars. If it takes a while to reach us, that’s OK.

On one of several songs that look skyward, “Every Little Star” patiently unfurls, its shimmering major chords framing a desire for permanence in an ever-changing world as a romantic feeling. “Won’t you stay, sweet sunflower / Future butterfly / Just the way you are,” Lynda Mandolyn sings. “Pollyanna” uses its decelerated pace to celebrate the few remaining sunshine-and-rainbows optimists of the world, encouraging them not to lose hope over a sun-soaked riff that feels like a chopped and screwed homage to Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today.” And the closing ballad, “Anomaly,” uses celestial metaphors on its search for connection with a lost loved one. “Dark walkway up to the meadows / Constellations of your face are everywhere,” Mandolyn muses, reminding us that we can find hope, even in the valley of despair. All we have to do is look up.

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