Album review: ‘Static’ by Cults

| Senior Cadenza Editor

Since its 2011 self-titled debut, New York City duo Cults has captivated both indie music blogs and the general public alike with a trademark, self-assured sound. “Go Outside,” Cults’ most famous song due to its overuse in television commercials, is the best example of this: summery and sweet, with vocalist Madeline Follin filling simple lyrics with longing and guitarist Brian Oblivion providing catchy, unadorned riffs. The duo’s new album, “Static,” is not much different. Even the album cover is similar to the debut—almost identical, really, with each member taking a slightly different pose and looking diffracted like blue figures on the famous TV screen from “Poltergeist.” While other bands and artists are criticized for a lack of growth, Cults avoids similar criticisms by adding new elements that deepen, rather than change, its sound.

Lead single “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” features the familiar xylophone and fuzzy guitar, yet it sounds more like Fitz and the Tantrums than Cults. This retro ’60s style carries throughout the album: “We’ve Got It” could have soundtracked a Scooby Doo werewolf chase; “Always Forever” is perfect for a slow dance while the lyrics are reminiscent of The Angels or The Ronettes. Unfortunately, none of the songs are as captivating or addicting as songs from the first album, like “Abducted” or “Oh My God.”

Sonically, though, Cults has never sounded better. Guitars are crisper, vocals distorted just the right amount. Yet something is missing, leading me to think that some of the charm on its debut came from this imperfect, incomplete sound. Impeccable production works wonders for artists like Kanye West or The Weeknd; here, it is an unwelcome addition. Album closer “No Hope” has some of that familiar background noise from the first album and is unsurprisingly a highlight. Simply, “Static” needs more static.

As an album, “Static” is incredibly coherent and enjoyable. While calling it background music sounds like an insult, I mean it in the best way possible. The hooks are simple enough to not be distracting, and the catchiness does not force you to get out of your seat and dance; rather, a simple head nod will suffice. At some points the songs blend together due to their similar length and sound but never in a forgettable way. If you aren’t ready for sweater weather yet, hold on to summer with the sounds of Cults.

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