With a name like Cults, it is puzzling that listening to their debut self-titled album reminded me of experiences purchasing the entire …Baby One More Time record just to hear the Britney Spears single by the same name. In 1999 I was surprised to enjoy Spears’s other recordings on the album when it was unimaginable that she could top the single “Baby One More Time,” or produce similarly catchy songs at the least. As I learned, Cults has more striking material to offer than their Pitchfork hits, “Go Outside” and “Most Wanted.”
With a successful single like “Go Outside,” however, I was both nervous and excited for what else the Cults duo could offer on a full-length album. To my delight, Cults dare to stew a myriad of genres into one pot, and while I knew Cults were capable, I was hesitant that they could apply the same melding of ‘60’s and ‘90’s music to the rest of the album. A little Motown sixties soul and rhythm is mixed with its early rock ‘n’ roll counterpart. The product is then sprinkled with 1990’s love-ballad female vocals and balanced with optimistic glockenspiel tones. Derelict and clean meet and make sugar-coated music together across the rest of the Cults album. The result is a perfect combination of salty R&B beats with sweet lyrics, all packaged up in gritty guitar riff wrapping–so you know it’s authentic Brooklyn!
Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion may not be the typical ma and pop from Brooklyn, but the real-life couple certainly delivers the goods with love baked right in. Expressing the ups and downs of falling in love is as real as their young musical talent. Follin and Oblivion interact and respond to each other in ways that listeners of the Marvelettes only dreamt of. Mr. Postman may not have a postcard for Follin, but Oblivion delivers a reply in his modest, whispering croons.
There is also something to be said for the experience of seeing Cults live in concert. Follin bellows into the microphone like nobody is watching: furrowed brows and swaying hips. Oblivion supports with keen concentration on his guitar and shy body language. The backing band may be unofficial in contract, but their looks match the Cults duo to a T: each bandmember sports raven-black straight hair that reaches as long as their lyrics of love, loss, and lust. The group’s look may be as carefully chosen as its uniquely anachronistic sound, but Follin and Oblivion have created one cult I surely will be following.
Highlight tracks: 1, 2, 6, 7, 10
– Charlotte Japp