Cults reflects pain of break-ups in sophomore album ‘Static’Posted on October 16, 2013 | by Blair Cannon
“Static,” the second album from indie pop band Cults fits perfectly within the band’s already established angsty, yet angelic sound. Not much has changed since their self-titled debut, except that now the band’s two members, Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion — both NYU alums — are no longer a couple. Despite the breakup, the two are still working together and even finding inspiration in the experience. Thus, “Static” is a quintessential breakup album, complete with Cults’ forlorn lyrics and unfailingly moody and soothing vibe.
The album is short — 11 songs in 35 minutes — but Cults gets straight to the point. The album opens with a hauntingly nostalgic vibe in the short and sweet track “I Know.” Oblivion brings in the guitar on the second track, “I Can Hardly Make You Mine,” which is when things start to get soulful. Follin’s vocals drift in a dreamlike manner, combining the old synth-pop, teenage attitude of the band’s last album with a ’60s girlish edge. A series of love ballads recount a relationship had and lost, blending all of the songs into one continuous story, both musically and lyrically.
Follin’s sugary soprano becomes chilling as she sings about missing something in “High Road” and “Were Before.” Her wailing vocals on “TV Dream” exemplify the contrast between the pessimistic story and the relaxingly melodic sound that listeners have come to expect from Cults. Perhaps the album is best captured in the opening lyrics of “No Hope,” when Follin laments, “Calm sort of feeling/They’re all turned to gray.”
The strands of confusing, conflicting messages that come with any breakup are present throughout “Static.” On “I Can Hardly Make You Mine,” Follin sings, “But I know you’re not the one or the only/But we both know what it’s like to be lonely.” Then, in “We’ve Got It,” she sings, “There’s no one else for me/There’s only you, my love.”
The title “Static” implies the electricity that comes with chemistry between two people, as well as the period of waiting for something to happen. With both members between relationships, Cults finds itself in the calm before the storm — a stage of transition without motion: static.
Cults should be applauded for consistency, which is imperative in a second album to avoid the “sophomore slump” label. But it’s clear they have not attempted to stretch their boundaries. Despite giving the audience what they already know works, it would be more exciting to see something new from Cults the next time around. The album also lacks a big crowd-pleaser, like “Go Outside” from their last album. “Static” risks being overlooked in comparison.
Nonetheless, the tunes of “Static” are impressively catchy and satisfy expectations. Cults fans will certainly be pleased with this transition album, but perhaps not surprised.
Blair Cannon is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.