'Cults' worth joining:

Latest C'Ville stop from dreamy pop group a standout set

On a very chilly Thursday night last week, the floor of the Jefferson quickly filled in anticipation as the Cults, a mirthful indie pop band from New York, prepared to take the stage.

The duo caught the attention of countless major music blogs in 2010 when they posted “Cults 7’‘,” a three-song EP, on their Bandcamp website.

Cults’ critically acclaimed self-titled debut launched the group into the indie mainstream. But as the band’s prominence rose, the romantic relationship that blossomed for four years between members Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion fell apart. “Static,” the underrated yet strong follow-up to “Cults,” is at times lonely and alienating, despite the pair’s insistence that it was not a breakup album.

GEMS opened for the group. The duo of University alumni from Washington, D.C. formed in 2012 and has already received attention for their handcrafted, ethereal synth-pop melodies. Declared one of the bands to watch for in 2014 by Hype Machine and BuzzFeed — which dubbed them “the best next band you’ve never heard” — GEMS’ haunting songs were an unexpectedly appropriate contrast to the main event.

Lindsay Pitt’s soaring vocals coupled with foggy melodies is reminiscent of Goldfrapp’s “Black Cherry” or Beach House’s signature dream pop sound. Standout tracks from their set were “Sinking Stone” and an impressive cover of Seal’s “Don’t Cry.” The duo has masterfully embraced the combination of electronic hip-hop beats and synthpop, creating a surprisingly pleasing, murky atmosphere.

Cults’ arrival brought wide cheers from the crowd. Madeline Follin swayed in her signature Urban Outfitter-esque printed flare skirt, and opened with “High Road.” Follin’s honey-sweet yet melancholy voice makes her an excellent live vocalist, and her tone meshes nicely with the band’s sour and bitter lyrics about heartbreak and love.

The set was a harmonious mix of songs from both of the duo’s albums. Full of hope and longing for love, lyrics such as “I don’t think I can make it / Oh, you’re the one” (from “I Can Hardly Make You Mine”) paired with bubbly, shoegaze melodies displayed in “Always Forever” showcased Follin’s remarkable vocal range.

Cults’ performance showed the band’s growing confidence and crisper signature sound. Despite being clouded in allusions to the duo’s breakup, the band’s gooey pop songs prevail in the face of their personal hardships.

Published February 3, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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