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Cults - Cults Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.75
Musicianship 8.25
Lyrics 8
Production 9.25
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 9
Reviewer Tilt 9.25
Final Verdict: 87%
Member Ratings
Vocals 7.31
Musicianship 7.06
Lyrics 7.38
Production 7.44
Creativity 7.31
Lasting Value 7.44
Reviewer Tilt 7.44
Average: 73%

Cults - Cults

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (06/08/11)
Cults - Cults
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Record Label: In the Name Of / Columbia

"Who is this?"

I've played "Go Outside", the debut single from Manhattan's Cults, countless times in recent months, and whenever I spin it around someone who hasn't heard it yet-- whether it's my more musically in-touch friends, those who wouldn't know Animal Collective from Animals as Leaders, or even my mom-- it never fails to generate that reaction. It colors the song as more than just another toe-tapping ditty. It seemed, though admittedly on the strength of one out-of-nowhere track, that Cults have that special something, a quality that's intangible and unquantifiable but singular, separating them from similar practitioners delivering classic-style jingles in modern indie-pop packages. And yet, as the wait for a full-length offering slogged on, the nagging suspicion that "Go Outside" was nothing more than a prematurely blown load crept up. Luckily, we needn't be patient any longer, and the verdict is in: any anticipation for Cults was more than justified.

Along with last year's Treats, Cults' self-titled debut is among the more smile-inducing releases in recent memory. While I hesitate to make any comparisons to Sleigh Bells-- Cults' songs are downright mellisonant when compared to their fellow blog-buzz band's often earsplitting sonic blasts-- few other albums sound like products of pure joy, of music or just in general. Not that Cults is uniformly sunshiny; on the album's opener "Abducted", vocalist Madeline Follin sings, "It tore me apart, 'cause I really loved him." However, there's a innocence and naivete to her vocal styling that suggests a palpable but unspoken hope, a childlike optimism for a better future. Similarly, on "You Know What I Mean", Follin sounds like a lovelorn Tracyanne Campbell when she mourns, "Tell me what's wrong with my brain, because I seem to have lost it," and multi-instrumentalist Brian Oblivion's backdrop echoes Camera Obscura's retro-fitted arrangements. I suppose it's technically a lament, but one whose overall effect is much more charming and heartwarming than depressing.

A love of the sounds of yesteryear pervades the entirety of Cults, and yet a tune like "Most Wanted" still stands out as just about the most authentic dose of early-'60s girl-group pop you're likely to hear in 2011. Despite the Golden Oldies era's place as a sort of common thread on the disc, Cults are careful not to pigeonhole themselves as one-trick ponies, as evidenced by a groovy, mid-tempo dreamscape like "Walk at Night". And while the hazy-cute production value (especially prominent on cuts like "Never Heal Myself") is in keeping with the zeitgeist, Cults' diaphanous curtain of noise isn't there to obfuscate, and thereby legitimize, hooks that are only half-realized-- I'm looking at you, Best Coast-- as their strength is unquestionably the songs themselves rather than clever studio sleight-of-hand.

Given the duo's status as darlings of the critical community, it's not surprising there's plenty of material here to relate to the slacker audiophile. "I'm tired of sitting around here with my boring life," Follin intones on "Oh My God". On "Never Saw the Point", she recognizes that her relationship is in the tank, but seems to lack the ambition to put any effort into making it work. And she notes, "Bad things happen to the people you love," on the aptly titled "Bad Things", but is only able to drum up apathy for the unfortunate ones.

This rather gloomy and defeatist attitude may exist in lyric, as well as the sample that kicks off the restless "Go Outside", a clip of cult-leader Jim Jones proclaiming, "To me, death is not a fearful thing; it's living that's treacherous," but if Cults are suggesting that Jones somehow speaks for them, I'm not buying it. For even Follin's tales of heartbreak sound little more significant than puppy love gone wrong, situations where the next crush and succedent heartbreak are right around the next corner. No big deal. But for near-perfectly executed indie-pop, we the lucky listeners don't have to wait for a "next time." Cults have struck gold the first time out.

RIYLTennis's Cape Dory; Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out of This Country; Sleigh Bells' Treats


Track Listing1. Abducted (2:53)
2. Go Outside (3:24)
3. You Know What I Mean (2:31)
4. Most Wanted (3:05)
5. Walk at Night (3:08)
6. Never Heal Myself (3:02)
7. Oh My God (3:20)
8. Never Saw the Point (3:04)
9. Bad Things (3:40)
10. Bumper (2:42)
11. Rave On (2:52)


Preview/Buy the album at Amazon MP3.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 26.
08:55 PM on 06/08/11
#2
vivatoto56
Nice Try, The Devil
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Such a great album.
09:48 PM on 06/08/11
#3
Trick Nasty
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lol @ this being rated higher than little hell
05:48 AM on 06/09/11
#4
Kyle Huntington
GIVEN TO THE WILD
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Great album and review.
lol @ this being rated higher than little hell
Different reviewers.
07:33 AM on 06/09/11
#5
Holly HoX!
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lol @ this being rated higher than little hell

Because it's better.
07:38 AM on 06/09/11
#6
Holly HoX!
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I loved this record. I had high expectations and thankfully they were met. I was somewhat worried after seeing them live - their live show was pretty lackluster. A lot of great tracks on here and it's one that will get better with repeated listens.

And as usual, great review, Jeremy.
09:03 AM on 06/09/11
#7
BlackpoolLights
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Seconded. Much better.
09:36 AM on 06/09/11
#8
brenByah
Welcome to the Blue Hell
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I'm glad this was reviewed! I haven't heard the album in its entirety yet, but I've been obsessed with "Abducted" for a couple months now.
09:46 AM on 06/09/11
#9
seconds
fuckin' shit up
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You guys are too generous with the rating system
11:31 AM on 06/09/11
Holly HoX!
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You guys are too generous with the rating system

broken record broken record broken record broken record

have you even listened to the album?
11:34 AM on 06/09/11
Broden Terry
I'm glad I built myself an igloo
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You guys are too generous with the rating system

The score is such an afterthought when I write my reviews. I understand that there are times where it's not possible to read an entire review, but I encourage it because what's written within a review is of far more substance and importance than an insignificant score. In fact, I'd be delighted if we didn't even have a scoring system so that our readers can form their own opinion based off of our reviews.
12:06 PM on 06/09/11
seconds
fuckin' shit up
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The score is such an afterthought when I write my reviews. I understand that there are times where it's not possible to read an entire review, but I encourage it because what's written within a review is of far more substance and importance than an insignificant score. In fact, I'd be delighted if we didn't even have a scoring system so that our readers can form their own opinion based off of our reviews.
I've written reviews on here before, as well. The rating system seems a bit off to me, but it is a good album. Don't get me wrong, good writing for once on AP. I just hate the system.
12:07 PM on 06/09/11
seconds
fuckin' shit up
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broken record broken record broken record broken record

have you even listened to the album?
Yes.
12:19 PM on 06/09/11
Holly HoX!
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If you have written album reviews before you should know full well that no rating/scoring system could be universal. This argument cannot come up in every review on this site. It's the reason a lot of music critic websites don't allow comments on reviews.
01:31 PM on 06/09/11
providence36
generator ^ first floor
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Very excited to get the full length, Ive had 5 of their songs for a few months now. Go Outside is pure bliss. They're like Sleigh Bell's quiet but always optimistic sibling
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