Cults
Cults


4.0
excellent

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
May 26th, 2011 | 55 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Summer's here, and it's got bite.

Before we jump into Cults, let's get one thing out of the way: this is some seriously twee stuff. Anybody who heard the Brooklyn band's self-released 7" on Bandcamp last year could tell you that Madeline Follin's voice is a precious, high-pitched little thing, and that the band's penchant for twinkling keyboards and reverb (not to mention their fashionably un-Google-able name) practically screamed "indie pop" in capital letters and red print. Cults can't help the fact that they fall squarely into a genre riddled with annoying signifiers and industry-constructed wannabes, but they can take those basic elements that make the best '60s-inflected indie pop tick and combine them into fantastic songs that have an uncanny ability to lodge their way firmly into your head. That's hardly easy to do, but Cults pull it off - and then some.

Because while Cults' songs are far from complex, they aren't simple. The little guitar slide in "Abducted" that kicks the album into high gear is a perfectly placed flourish executed tightly and efficiently, a far cry from the self-consciously lazy stylings found in bands occupying similar mid-century revivalist territory. Clever touches abound, providing these songs with an appealingly quick pulse and just enough bounce to be completely charming. The phrase "summer music" has been invoked so many times with regards to this album that I'm loathe to use it again, but this stuff just sounds sunny and breezy. All of which makes the album's decidedly sinister touches that much more effective. "Never Saw The Point" starts out cute enough, with Follin singing, "I never saw the point in trying / 'cause I would only let you down". But then she sings, in that exact same tone, "And I just couldn't bring you down there with me / I just can't stand to see you drown". All of a sudden, the song's lilting arrangement takes on another dimension, suggesting recurrent anxiety instead of buoyancy.

This contrast between light and dark was found on the band's very first single, "Go Outside", which opened with the notorious cult leader Jim Jones intoning, "To me, death is not a fearful thing. It's living that's treacherous." In its earlier incarnation, the quote felt a bit like an extraneous addition for the sake of giving the band an "edge" that befitted their name, but in context, it feels appropriate. Because while it's a stretch to say that Cults are exploring the relationship between life and death with their music, the delicate push-and-pull between heartbreak and humor is a constant presence here. When they revert to the latter mode, as Follin does when singing, "I could never be myself, so fuck you," the result is winning. But then we have "You Know What I Mean", a deceptively cheerful ditty filled with uncertainty: "Help me 'cause I'm feeling shaky / tell me what's wrong with my brain, 'cause I seem to have lost it." The sentiment is intensified by Follin's deliberately sweet tone, which could just as easily be interpreted as being eerily clear-eyed. There are brief moments in Cults where a more nuanced approach to vocals would be much appreciated (and the superb, Belle and Sebastian-esque "Bumper" hints at how galvanizing such a development would be), but for the most part, the singularity that Follin communicates is immediate and convincing.

It's largely due to this urgency that Cults is such a breathless and exhilarating album, and such a fun one - for all its darker hues, this is music that slams a smile onto your face. Listening to it, I'm reminded of Sleigh Bells' superb Treats, not because Cults is a particularly close sonic relative of that Brooklyn boy-girl duo's decibel-busting pop; rather, both bands establish their aesthetic clearly, work within its narrow boundaries, and spin aural bliss out of it. Sure, it's a bit homogeneous, but when the songs are this good and exciting, that's hardly a major drawback. Besides, if Cults can't win you over with their music, they'll win you over with sheer force. As they exhort themselves, "rave on". Who am I to disobey?



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user ratings (201)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
May 26th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/25/136463353/first-listen-cults-cults

Everybody could use a little bit of deceptively cute indie pop in their lives.

Kiran
Emeritus
May 26th 2011


6002 Comments


been jamming to 'oh my god' and 'go outside' for the past year, cant wait to listen to this

Jovis
May 26th 2011


16 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, they're playing in my town soon, and I checked them out to see if they were any good. I'll definitely be picking this up when it drops.

Tyrael
May 26th 2011


20971 Comments


Great review Conrad, sounds pretty cool so far.

DoubtGin
May 26th 2011


6754 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sounds great, will listen

timbo8
May 26th 2011


618 Comments


Sweet album

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 26th 2011


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

want this to leak so hard. abducted is my jam of the summer

conradtao
Emeritus
May 26th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

There are some webrips floating around, as expected.

I figure this is a pretty good strategy, though...makes me want to buy the album. Same thing happened with Tomboy.

klap
Staff Reviewer
May 26th 2011


10582 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

the rips sound like shit but me likey. reminds me of this girl i used to date

Digging: Charli XCX - Sucker

AggravatedYeti
May 26th 2011


7685 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the EP was so amazingly twee. I probably should get this.



conradtao
Emeritus
May 26th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, given that she will definitely dig this. It's better than all those bands.

conradtao
Emeritus
May 26th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Both great bands, but yeah, it's pretty obvious that you won't really like this much, sonic.

cbmartinez
May 27th 2011


2525 Comments


god that album cover is awful

conradtao
Emeritus
May 28th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I like it..

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
May 28th 2011


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

found it, listening, loving

GamemakerPW
June 6th 2011


63 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this stuff is super catchy while being equally interesting, good review too

TheDMV
June 7th 2011


64 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is so good

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
June 7th 2011


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

HE TORE ME APART CUZ I REALLY LOVED HIM

RavenRock
June 7th 2011


688 Comments


goddam album.

DoubtGin
June 7th 2011


6754 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

cover made me think this is gonna rock hard



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