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Album Review

Cults made the most of the mystery surrounding them, turning the three songs they posted on their Bandcamp page into major-label record deal in just over a year. Of course, it helped that one of those songs was “Go Outside,” a piece of pop so sunny and wistful that it only made the question “who is this band?” even more pressing. However, the more important question was: could they sustain that kind of beauty over an entire album? The expectations for Cults were nearly as high as the level of secrecy around the band in its early days, and the revelation that the group revolved around New York-based guitarist Brian Oblivion and vocalist Madeline Follin did little to dispel the enigma. However, it does explain why Cults' sound is so focused: they explore and subvert early-‘60s pop, swathing Follin's girl group-ready vocals in trippy sounds and samples, channeling the unearthly quality of some of that era’s music and its chiaroscuro mix of innocence and mortality. Just how much Follin and Oblivion love ‘60s pop is evident in Cults' details, like the handclaps, pounding pianos, and splashy reverb on “Bad Things,” which sounds like Follin is singing in the rain. The best example of their music is still the song that started it all. “Go Outside” embellishes Follin's seemingly simple wish to go out and live her life with sparkling glockenspiels on one hand and Jonestown leader Jim Jones saying “To me, death is not a fearful thing; it’s living that's treacherous” on the other. Nothing else on Cults is quite as striking, though the contrast of Follin's childlike voice and dark words casts her as a girl in trouble on “Never Heal Myself” and “Most Wanted,” where she sings, “what I most want is bad for me, I know.”


Formed: 2010 in New York, NY [Manhattan]

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '10s

Cults' twinkling experimental pop arrived in a shroud of mystery early in 2010, when the group posted three songs on its Bandcamp page. One of those songs was "Go Outside," which mixed dream pop haze with girl group harmonies (and, fittingly, samples of Jonestown leader Jim Jones) and earned the band acclaim from publications including Pitchfork and NME. Eventually, Cults' core duo was revealed as guitarist Brian Oblivion and vocalist Madeline Follin, who were also a couple. Later in 2010, Cults...
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Cults, Cults
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