Home > Music Reviews > Album Review: Cults, Cults

Album Review: Cults, Cults

[Track: Most Wanted]

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A few weeks ago I posted an article on the group Cults, a relatively unknown Indie duo that has turned a lot of heads since last years debut single Go Outside.

Since the release of two singles (Go Outside and Most Wanted) in Spring of 2010, the groups popularity started escalating– especially due to recognition from Indie big wigs such as Pitchfork and Gorilla Versus Bear.

The bands success is definitely well deserved. The almost obnoxiously uplifting single Go Outside combined with the 1950’s girl group rhythm of Most Wanted had everyone on the edge of their seats anticipating their debut album that dropped June 7th 2011.

So here we are on June 13th with the album Cults by Cults.

Since their emergence in 2010, more and more details have come known about the duo.

The group consists of Brian Oblivion and Madeline Folline, two former NYU film students who began making music in their spare time to share with friends. Brian covers vocals, guitar and percussion while Madeline takes lead vocals on most tracks.

The release of Go Outside on their Band Camp page led to an internet frenzy in Spring of 2010 which, in turn, led to an album deal with Columbia imprint, (and Lily Allen owned label)– In The Name Of.

Despite the album only being out for over a week it’s already been met with stellar reviews. The album has been tagged as Best New Music by Pitchfork Media, and Paste Magazine praised the album not only for its indie-pop sound, but for it’s depth in production and creativity.

So what makes the album so great? Well let’s start with the production.

The melody of most songs are fairly simple–a three chord melody for most of ’em–but what gives them depth rather than over-simplicity is the rich layering.

Through out the album you have sonic structures that use various looped and electronic elements that contribute to each song. These elements synch beautifully with the vocals to create an ambiance rather than a simple song–a feeling rather than just a track.

The entire album is produced wonderfully–as I’ve said before it’s very common to over produce an album–but this one is produced carefully and efficiently.

The multi-layered instruments compliment the vocals but they also compliment one another. For instance in the track Oh My God, the looped synth and xylophone are mixed in a way that feeds off of the guitar, the bass line and the drums. The looped electronic instruments and “main” instruments mesh nicely which makes it possible for the song to “go places” rather than becoming one-dimensional.

Another way the band stands out is by mixing sound clips of cult leaders in their songs, the eerie speeches of Jim Jones mixed with the “sweet” up beat voice of Madeline Folline  creates a very bizarre but likable addition to the album. The sound clips are also used sparingly–which makes them effective rather than becoming a novelty.

The album,, at 33 minutes, is the perfect length and it seems to tell a story from start to finish–a quality I love in an album–within each song you watch the groups material mature and grow.

The first song, Abducted, is a song about someone stealing a lovers heart and the terrible heartbreak that ensues. The albums final track Rave On oppositely ends the album on a positive note, and every track in between only adds to the developing story line.

Musically the album is spot on and other than the creative uses of sampling and layering, the vocals are also very well executed.

While most of the singing is done by Folline, Oblivion adds his vocals to tracks where a male vocal is needed. Not only is Oblivions singing style great, but where he sings is wonderfully placed, and it adds depth to the over all story of the album.

Folline, the main vocalist, has a very unique voice–and in a number of tracks–she seems to channel 1950’s girl group singers such as Diana Ross but in doing so she still keeps her indie pop flair.

This indie/du wop combination can be heard in tracks such as, You Know What I Mean, Most Wanted, Bumper and Never Saw The Point.

These tracks combine the duwop signature piano and bass line, but are mixed in a way that still give off an indie rock sound which makes it interesting rather than cliche. You find this same tactic through out the entire album, the group  takes a very simple idea but mixes and layers it to perfection, as well as adding their own touch.

Follines delivery is also something to take note of.

In the track Never Heal Myself, we hear a woman’s frustrated cry to her man telling him, “I could never heal myself enough for you.”

It’s a powerful song in which you can not only feel the frustration–but also the defeat– in the vocals. You can certainly tell that the singer wants to give in and just pull the plug on her failing relationship.

The instruments on Never Heal Myself include a haunting background melody that mimics the guitar and flowing keyboards that create a catchy ambiance.

However, the pinnacle of the track comes when Folline sings the following in a sweet and non-chalant way:

“I tried to heal myself..and turn into someone else..but I could never be myself.. so fuck you.” 

It’s Follines innocent voice and non chalant delivery–combined with powerful lyrics– that makes this album so unique as well as fun.

Not all songs are du-wop inspired, many are simple bass lines and piano chords but mixed with Cults entertaining flair. Each song certainly stands on it’s own two feet–but also contributes to the whole of the album.

The albums closing track Rave On wonderfully wraps up the album–using sparse vocals and guitar for the verses but a multi-voiced chorus that sings the words “rave on” at all the right places–wonderfully telling all the listeners good bye, until next time.

Amazing album! It’s great from start to finish, and has all the qualities of a great work–and certainly puts Cults on the map.

Keep your ears open for these guys.

Thanks for reading.


Image Courtesy: Brooklyn Vegan

  1. Matthew Planchard
    06/13/2011 at 8:20 pm

    Yes! Yes yes yes!

    This has become my new favorite album. Since getting it in the mail July 9th, I have probably listened to it at least 5 times. I completely agree with your review, and I have to add that “You Know What I Mean” gets more powerful every time you hear it. The placement of her vocals are so perfectly in line with the beat that it becomes this huge, heavy thing!

    Thanks again for introducing me to this band. I am now officially a fan!

  2. 06/14/2011 at 1:29 pm

    Very thorough and fascinating review. I’m not sure this particular song does anything for me other than inspire me to think, “damn, my Mom, would have loved it”, but one song rarely reflects the worth of a band. Thanks for the tip, though. I will explore them more and with an open mind. 🙂

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