Album Review: “Cults” by Cults
Audio: “Go Outside”
Audio: “Oh My God”
Buzzband (n.): up-and-coming musician whose sound is typically defined by bright, lush, summery tones, and an inescapable youthfulness that’s usually defined by love, fun, and/or loneliness.
Cults, an indie-pop Brooklyn duo, have become blog darlings since they first appeared during the Spring of 2010. With feather-like vocals and agile instrumentation, the band excels in creating the sort of sprightliness that’s always a pleasure to hear. After blowing up last summer with the ever-endearing “Go Outside”, the band’s highly anticipated debut finally came out earlier this month. Their debut is solid, no doubt; however, it comes across as a bit of a disappointment considering the hype this band has received in recent months.
Cults is comprised of vocalist Madeline Follin and guitarist/vocalist Brian Oblivion. Together, they create 60’s-esque pop music that’s undeniably fun to listen to. But despite the summer-like quality to their sound, Madeline Follin’s songwriting often finds itself at a much darker place to mixed results. This is positively seen on the album opener “Abducted”, where she croons, “He tore me apart because I really loved him/ He took my heart away and left me to bleed out, bleed out.” Though these types of lyrics and bright tones usually are hit-or-miss with most bands, when Cults manages to make it work, they’re infectious. Unfortunately, the band finds itself repeating all-too-familiar themes like loneliness and the loss of love, which would be fine if the songs didn’t seem like carbon copies of each other. In “Never Saw The Point”, Follin laments over Oblivian’s beachy guitar, “I never saw the point in crying/ Cause I can’t be the way you want.” But Follin sometimes finds herself coming up with some wondrous lyricism as seen in the standout track “You Know What I Mean.” In this track, doo-woopy snaps and guitars back Follin’s self-questioning: “Help me cause I’m feeling shaky/ Tell me what’s wrong with my brain/ Cause I seem to have lost it/ Cause I am afraid of the light.”
Sonically, Cults succeeds in creating an album that neatly treads the warmth of the summer months. With simple chords and riffs, Cults create musical landscapes that are certainly accessible, but nothing spectacular. Cults are also a fan of sound bites, though some are indiscernible. But it’s used to perfection on the album highlight “Go Outside”, which uses audio from the mass suicide at Jonestown led by none other than the ‘cultist’ (lolol cwuttheydidthere?) Jim Jones. I digress.
Cults is a firm debut for a band whose sound is bound to grow; however, the singles and EP that came last summer are far more appealing than this record. There’s a lot this album does well, from Follin’s dainty and charming voice, to the beaming sunshine their sound produces. But this album will come off as a bit redundant if you’ve been following the band for a while. Some of the best songs on this album have been around for almost a year (“Go Outside”, “Oh My God”, and “Most Wanted”), which makes listening to this album seem almost archaic in the music world.