Always building on their previous big moments, Cults is pulling from the past on their latest LP. Taking notes from the sounds of the 80s and Brian Wilson, they make pop that’s as addictive as it is complex and wondrous. While it may feel derivative on the surface, fans will find a lot to dig into from this latest record on repeat listens.
Bringing more 80s grandeur than ever before, “Offering” starts the album on a huge pop number with stomping drums that drive Follin’s vocals. The enveloping emotion of the synths and the band’s ability to twist these into both pop and pain is a testament to their evolution as a band. Leading with a big hook on “I Took Your Picture” they let the bass drive the track to great effect. Switching back and forth from its dreamy breaks to slick riffs, the track is endlessly catchy while shaping the sound in just the right way to be inspiring.
“With My Eyes Closed” bounces on a retro-pop and even Beach Boys-like sense of piano pop, as it weaves dark messages into something inherently bright. This said the explosive undercurrent of the production starts to overtake the rest of the song, turning every quiet hook into a tense wait for them to release the pressure valve. Spinning their old-school sounds in a different direction, “Recovery” booms with loud brass and strong drum line. Letting its synth lines fly out with a rush of life before it even reaches the chorus, the track is an endless movement of great moments.
There’s something almost cheesy in the pop of “Right Words” while it still manages to be a writing powerhouse of stirring moments that will lift your spirits. While overall a little straightforward, it’s such an upbeat track that in the course of the album it’s a fun break. “Good Religion” may feel a little bit on the nose with its ethereal tones and slow moving writing but it really builds a lot of emotion in the process. The sucker punch here however is the synth attack that comes out of the bridge as the song goes from asleep to a rush of arpeggios that raise it all to a fever pitch.
“Natural State” does play things a little safe with its slow guitar clangs, letting very simple song writing dictate over half the song. When it reaches its second half and starts to layer part after part into the track it blooms into a mosaic of sound, raising the question of why they started on something so bland. Bouncing its vocals up and down on “Nothing Is Written,” they really up the excitement on a predictable structure. Whether or not its classic writing structure hits you at the right time, it’s hard not to appreciate the amount of detail they infused into its production.
Going from a simple piano ballad to a song with more synth-work than a Tame Impala track, “Talk In Circles” is quite the knockout thanks to its dynamic explosion of a chorus. Igniting a dark and pensive verse, these big moments actually prove to be the most complex on the album for a track that really takes off. “Clear From Far Away” lets spritely piano lines dance around the verses as they shift between grooves and loud pop. One of the most throwback tunes on the record in terms of writing, its use of strings is really heavenly. “Gilded Lily” lulls listeners in with its soft piano, while guiding them through a tale of death. The futuristic synth work here however is one of the strongest on the record and takes it out on one of the most pained and beautiful hooks of the record.
Words by Owen Maxwell