There’s been quite a lot of buzz around mysterious New York duo Cults, so I figured it’d be worth checking out their self-titled debut album to see what all the fuss is about. The band is comprised of vocalist Madeline Follin and vocalist/guitarist Brian Oblivion (surely that can’t be his real surname?), and at first glance they make cutesy, charming, girl-group inspired pop. Listen more closely to the band’s lyrics, and it’s clear that there’s a darker undercurrent to their songs. Album-opener ‘Abducted’ demonstrates this perfectly, all twinkling xylophones, handclap-rhythm snares and fuzzy guitars – only the 60’s organ sound hints at the heartbreak that’s laid bare in the lyrics. Follin’s desperate cries of “It broke my heart ’cause I really loved him/he took my heart away and left me bleeding” are contrasted with the reality of Oblivion’s cold, impassive voice as he sings “I knew right then that I’d never love her.”
And so the album continues, with Follin singing about crippling anxiety (“I am afraid of the light/yeah you know what I mean”), frustrating relationships (“Oh my god, I’m ready to walk right out that door”) and a lack of self-worth (“I never saw the point in trying/’cause I would only let you down”) – it’s clear that while the album initially hooks you in with its sweet sounding melodies, it’s the way they’re juxtaposed with the sorrowful lyrics that’ll keep you coming back.
The band come pretty close to a 100% success rate – only ‘Bad Things’ sticks out as a bit plodding – making Cults a remarkably well-realised debut for a band who first surfaced a little over a year a year ago. If you want to check out the album yourself, it’s streaming right now over at NPR.org.
Also, album-closer ‘Rave On’ makes me think that the band could do a tragically beautiful version of the Buddy Holly song of the same name. Make it happen, guys?
Cults is available now in the UK on In The Name Of records – the album is released in the US on the 7th June.