Label: Polydor Records
Though they have a reputation for melting down on stage -- when they make it to the gig at all -- Toronto's Crystal Castles sound surprisingly focused on their second album. The jagged 8-bit textures have given way to a richer, deeper palette marked by cool vocal harmonies and ambient pads; the buzz-saw synthesizers are still here, but they come wrapped in gauzy layers. Their punk inclinations have receded, replaced by the influence of techno-pop artists like Ellen Allien and the Knife. It's a kinder, gentler band, and all the better for it.