In 2011, a New York indie pop duo emerged onto the scene with their debut self-titled album. The band called themselves Cults, and this new record was a huge hit in the blogosphere. Tracks such as “Abducted”, “Go Outside”, “You Know What I Mean”, “Bumper”, and many others proved Cults to be not just a one-hit-wonder, but a duo that churned out one great song after another. “Go Outside” went on to appear in several commercials, and even a video game soundtrack.
This week, the band returns with Static, a record with a clear sign of evolution. These tracks focus more than noisiness and dynamics, rather than catchiness. The melodic style that the band presented on their debut is still here. However, it is presented in a much less straightforward and accessible fashion.
The album opens with the two-minute intro, “I Know”. The vocals are obscured behind a wall of sound, and this is a theme that continues throughout the record. The next track, “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” goes for a much more rowdy and riff-oriented approach than past Cults tracks. “Always Forever” is a groovy track with a high-pitched vocal from vocalist Madeline Folin. This vocal style can get a bit monotonous, however.
The fourth track on this record is “High Road”, a clear standout. This track has a very slick groove and bassline, with organ hanging in the foreground. The hook on this track is extremely infectious, with Folin and Oblivion sharing vocals, and a nice touch of piano. The pre-chorus is also a pretty tense buildup to the hook. Afterwards is “Were Before”, which has an eerie similarity in melody to “High Road”. Not sure if this was done intentionally, since the two are next to each other in the track listing. Other highlights include the anthemic, blaring “Keep Your Head Up”, and the bouncy rhythm of “We’ve Got It”.
The closing track, “No Hope” begins with processed piano chords, and it builds into a climactic bang of a finish. The album ends with television static, adding to the theme of the album’s title.
The title Static has unknown origins; perhaps it relates to feelings towards their new record label, Columbia. Or it could be the static feeling of a breakup, especially the breakup of band members Madeline Folin and Brian Oblivion prior to the recording of this album. It isn’t quite clear what the title really means. Nonetheless, Cults have put together a big step of a sophomore release. It wasn’t the jangley, catchy album like the debut, but it has just enough to offer to keep people around.