With their sophomore release, Static, New York City-based duo Cults have taken a completely different turn within the cookie-cutter pop genre and created an unusually appealing atmosphere. The mostly self-produced band has been on the radar as an up-and-coming independent pop duo since the success of the hit single “Go Outside”, landing spots in commercials and gaining a cult-like following on music sharing websites. However, their latest effort takes a bold step into a state of gritty, unconventional pop music (if it can be called that) and generates a sound that reflects a whole new identity.
Static isn’t the typical sophomore album. While Cults’ self-titled debut album had a light and playful atmosphere pulsating through various synth beats and bells, the band’s new release is raw and moody. The entire album contains desperate, distressed lyrical undertones, masked by classic 1960’s pop beats and fatigued guitar solos.
It is clear that the duo’s intentions aren’t to please the general masses, but rather to show the world what they truly feel is worth writing about. Songs like “No Hope” retain a familiar heartbroken ballad sound, but upon closer inspection the lyrics transpire as an ode to self-loathing. The track’s lyrics take a turn into the dark side of the human psyche, experimenting the low points of emotional distress. Lead singer Madeline Follin coos in her hauntingly sweet voice that “There’s no hope/ No hope/ No hope/ For the wicked inside myself”.
Other tracks, such as “I Can Never Make You Mine” dive into a different kind of broken heart. The song maintains the self-searching theme of the album with lyrics like “Should’ve taken the high road/ Now it’s such a long way back/ Instead I take the long road/Figured I would simply be getting back.”
While the lyrics manage to uphold most of the album’s success, the band’s use of 60’s pop and 70’s psychedelic groove is notable as well. Songs like “We’ve Got It” and “Always Forever” have the essential wah-wah guitar sounds and simple, to-the-point lyrics that generate a retro feel with a contemporary twist. It’s mostly through the layering of lazy guitar riffs, repetitive drumbeats, and poppy synth beats that Cults builds modern appeal.
Cults have definitely managed to leave the airy pop world in the dust and create a whole new category for themselves. The lyrics capture gritty emotions and people’s cruel intentions without fear, making Static an album that doesn’t back down when it comes to talking about life’s realities. Overall, Cults definitely seems to break the mold of the standard indie pop band, writing about whatever they feel like and mixing sounds like it’s nobody’s business. In fact, such boldness and creativity makes it hard to label Cults as just another indie pop band. The band proves within Static that they can create songs that accompany listeners through pivotal self-realization, exceptional emotional torment, moments of determined optimism, and any other point in between. Static comes as a refreshing reminder that a great indie-pop album can hinge on lyrical and emotional meaning, and that there’s more to a song than just a catchy chorus.
by Cecilia Morales