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Ever since posting three songs anonymously up on band camp in the spring of 2010, excitement and intrigue has been swirling around Cults, with the buzz building to a fever pitch early in 2011 with their first string of shows in the UK all quickly selling out. Gaining fervent supporters on both sides of the pond (including the influential likes of Pitchfork, Gorilla Vs Bear, NME and the Guardian), Cults have spent the year slowly and steadily building up their reputation as a live band, while also recording their album in the studio with Shane Stoneback (Vampire Weekend, M.I.A). The result is their self-titled LP, chock full of deliciously offbeat, slanted and enchanted songs.
Expanding on the off-kilter loveliness of tracks like “Most Wanted” and “Go Outside”, the album compresses key points in the history of pop--everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Phil Spector to Jay Z and Lesley Gore--and takes it down some very unexpected (and sometimes, unexpectedly dark) places indeed. Gorgeously infectious melodies sit alongside surreal samples, soaring, cinematic choruses envelop lyrics detailing restlessness and heartbreak, and lush, out-and out pop hits (“Bumper”, the anthemic closer “Rave On”) rub up against tracks of a decidedly more sinister bent (“Walk At Night”, “Never Saw the Point”). This is a pop record boldly unafraid to wear its idiosyncrasies on its sleeve, as well as its vivid harmonies.
Cults emerged little over a year ago, seemingly out of nowhere, with their wildfire hit Go Outside and a heavy whiff of mystery. At the time facts about the band were thin; there were two of them, and they were from Brooklyn. But now the band (backed by additional members) are back with names, faces and a debut album – out on Lily Allen’s In The Name Of imprint – with no more ambiguity to hide behind.
The cautionary tale of the one-hit wonder is well-worn and wisely Cults eschewed the easily doomed path of the quick follow-up and waited for things to cool down. After a period of quiet, recordings-wise, Cults return on new single – and album opener – Abducted with a false calm. In the opening strains of the song only a faraway jangle is audible as Madeline Follin sings the opening few lines in a hush, as if to only herself. A snare announces the song properly as it bursts into its first chorus with lurching organ and a propulsive break-beat; it feels like no time has elapsed at all since the summer of 2010.
The opening trio of songs is the strongest, but that’s not to say that the rest of the record trails off meekly; more that the starting gun of Abducted, Go Outside and You Know What I Mean is a tough bang for any band to follow. The latter of those songs is an instant highlight with its rasping vocal and 1960s sound. It has more bite than Go Outside ever hinted at and is steeped in melancholy, peaking on the last chorus as Follin almost screams, "I am afraid of the light, yeah you know what I mean".
Her voice sounds great above their warm, reverb-soaked sound, and the band plays it up as the focal point on songs like Never Saw the Point as her vocal melodies are doubled by glockenspiel – a trick Cults pull out again and again. Echoes of Motown and Phil Spector also loom large throughout this record, lending a wistful, nostalgic feel to proceedings – it’s a great warm-weather album. But despite the genre signifiers there’s more than enough personality of their own here for Cults to transcend both their blog hit wonder and the timeworn sound they lovingly homage.
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Top Customer Reviews
It starts off with Abducted which breezes along with ease, guitars and percussion all combining here for a feel good effect. These two sure do make a lot of noise for a duo. Yes I am sure they are getting help but this is no White Stripes style duo with the bare essentials. More it is a band sound. You Know What I Mean could have been from the 60's - it really sounds like some of the better studio produced female vocalists of that time. Never Heal Myself is another track that grabs instantly with an opening of acoustic guitar and percussion. You get the feel that under the excellent songs there are some brooding lyrics about love lost and won. Sometimes the riff of electric guitar comes into give a brooding feel - as in Never Saw The Point. And at points on this album I am reminded of My Girls by The Animal Collective. Its almost there with its sound and approach. Especially on Bad Things. Or perhaps I am hearing things.
If this gets any airplay at all it will sell lots and have many indie kids this summer swooning. Its rather fantastic fun. And may well become a five star album for this reader with repeated plays.
All I can say is I love it. 11 sparse, Phil Spector wall of sound style tunes that enter your brain and stay there. Dreamy vocals, hazy sounds, background synth bubbles, 60's guitar strummings, echoes of Motown flitting in and out. A truly beautiful thing.
My advice? Buy it. Sometimes you have to do things on a whim!
who plays guitar and percussion and contributes additional vocals. In coming
to a view about whether or not they deserve our attention we are faced with a
small dilemma. There are quite a few double-acts out there in the listening
world right now who have made a mission of plundering the sixties in the hope
of finding new expression and relevance in that turbulent decade's cold ashes.
The Raveonettes and Cat's Eyes have already deported themselves well in similar
territory and both managed to deliver albums which deigned to capture, in dark
and foreboding sonic hues, the spirit of an age long-gone under the horizon.
Cults' contribution to this burgeoning genre, however, favours a lighter touch.
They write jolly good tunes. Ms Follin sings them well with a thin-and-crispy
voice which is high on cool but somewhat lacking in substance but this does
not really matter at all. Her approach is enthusiastic and this more than makes
up for her technical shortcomings. Take a song like 'Never Heal Myself' : the
strong melody, sparkling arrangement and sense of summery abandon is pretty
nigh irresistible. Single 'Go Outside', too, manages to keep the fires of the
summer of love burning in dense swathes of reverb and quasi-psychedelic bonhomie.
The lovely 'You Know What I Mean' would have gone down a storm at at a wedding
reception in Scarborough in 1963 and the spirit of Merseyside seems alive and
well in the delightfully jaunty 'Never Saw The Point' and 'Bumper'. It is to
'Walk At Night', however, which I would draw your attention for elucidation
of Ms Follin's and Mr Oblivion's not insignificant songwriting abilities.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really enjoyed listening to this Album,
Highly recommend 'Go Outside' brilliant song and after watching the video all I can say...Wow !
The album's been on my MP3 player for a good while and now that I have rated each single the ones from the Cults are frequently heard. Im my opinion i think thier sound is quality. Read morePublished on 12 April 2013 by Mr. R. Preston
First time I'd heard them properly after hearing them on spotify, really great band and all songs are really up beat which is difficult to find on an album these days.Published on 17 April 2012 by Scottie
i loved this cd on first listen and it keeps getting better and better.
the songs are all innovative and fresh very distinctive vocals make this a must listen.
I do love this album, and it really does get me in the festive mood (especially go outside), but my only negative is that the songs are quite samey with only 2 or 3 that stand out... Read morePublished on 29 Nov. 2011 by missmeg
what an excellent 1st LP came across it by accident and blew me away. it is a real happy indie record of pure pleasure what a voice she has. seen them live. Read morePublished on 26 Nov. 2011 by alan
And that's all there is to it! Indie-pop tastic. Love every moment. This is what guitars were made for. More, more, more!Published on 27 Oct. 2011 by Martin Willcox
Just wanted the single that is used on the cider advert but saw it wasn't much more expensive to buy the whole album. Read morePublished on 7 Sept. 2011 by peter piper
Picked this up based on the Pitchfork review, but on listening it left me slightly underwhelmed.
This is a good summer record, it's good up to date indie pop/rock, that... Read more