Album Review: Cults
NYC boy/girl duo Cults have had a pretty charmed start to their career. The twosome, who hail from San Diego, started playing music in their spare time while studying film at New York University. They had no grand plans, they said: their songs were just to 'share with their friends'.
Soon enough, though, the duo's songs had spread well beyond their dorm room: in a matter of months, the band's three song debut ep––a wonderfully immediate burst of hazy pop, steeped in 60s girl group harmonies and Spector-esque production––had made it onto Pitchfork's Best New Music list, and the band was being courted by Lily Allen's Columbia Records imprint.
As their star rose, though, Cults kept details about themselves sparse: until recently they had no official website and gave few interviews; this combined with their almost un-Googleable name gave them an aura of mystery that fit with the sinister undertones evoked by their moniker. Now signed to a major, the duo of Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin have just released their much awaited debut album, a half hour collection of lively, hazy summer pop tunes.
The Cults write songs steeped in the past, but with nods to the present time: classic hooks delivered with a keen sense of indie rock dynamics. Think Lesley Gore fronting an upbeat version of Lykke Li.
The album kicks off with 'Abducted', an anthemic 60s infused pop gem that explores the devastation of a broken heart.
Next up is their first hit, 'Go Outside', an instantly memorable track anchored by a hazy bassline and a tinkling glockenspiel that has you yearning for a balmy childhood summer evening; by the end of the song, you're pretty much ready to get up and launch into a Partridge family style sing-along.
But it's not all sunshine: 'You really want to hole up, you really want to stay inside and sleep the light away', sings a wistful Follin, adding that she knows 'what's good, exactly cause I have been there before.'
On several tracks, Cults weave in ominous samples of various cult leaders, adding a chill to the album's brisk, sunny melodies. Lyrically, Follin and Oblivion switch between child-like innocence and adolescent anger, self-doubt and confusion, the two often singing of running away and not needing 'anyone else'.
Underneath the easy melodies lie the pains of growing up: putting on a front for everyone else, but never fooling yourself.
The album is smartly produced, weaving together bells, synths, guitars and whistles. But what separates Cults from the many bands employing similar tools is Follin's effortlessly melodic voice, a throwback to the heyday of 60s girl pop that has a delightfully sedating effect, and the economy of the duo's songwriting.
Far from being the one hit wonder some thought they might be, on their debut album Cults prove themselves versatile and talented songwriters, capable of expressing the every day hardships of youth in simple, sublime pop.
Jade Rose Leopoldo