Thursday, April 17, 2008
This one definitely took me by surprise. Back in 2004 Cut Copy's debut seemed like an 80s pastiche album from some fruity Australian guys who loved neon and synthesizers. While it may have been slightly ahead of the curve, it feels very much part of the whole new-rave thing that is still pretty much dominating indie and dance music. So it has been easy to lump them in with a bunch of other bands, many of whom are from Australia or even on their label Modular. Maybe I wasn't paying attention or maybe it's a new development, but at some point this band became really creative and ambitious, incorporating sounds and approaching territory that is pretty foreign to all those other bands in the hypem/remix/bloghouse continuum. They also got way, WAY better.
This inventiveness is apparent right off the bat with the opening "Feel The Love," starting with oddly hummed vocals and synth flourishes over strummed acoustic guitars. Right away it sounds slightly more psychedelic, more unabashedly joyful than what is expected of a band like this, and it's clear that it belongs to some other sphere of influence, with a melody too perfect and so many bubbling elements that it sounds like it has nothing to do with everything that's going on right now. "Feel the Love" is pretty enough to make me wonder if the band had suddenly gone hippie until the end finally brings in the beat. That's what everyone is waiting for anyway these days. But what makes this album stand out is the sticky sound that surrounds each element of the songs, not to mention the incredible melodies. Songs like "Out There On The Ice" and "Lights and Music" sound so genuinely New Wave that it's easy to ignore the fact that these guys made an album full of danceable, four-on-the-floor house-rock tracks that work much more strongly as an LP, that is as a great album.
One of the most engaging features of the album is the feeling of an ebb and flow that occurs throughout it. Songs like "Lights and Music," which is the new single and is a pretty direct dancefloor track, have these incredibly sublime breakdowns in them where the band lets the ever-present synths soar or bounce or just wash over you. The whole album is padded with a distorted wash of noise that comes and goes, sometimes giving way to powerful beats or serene breakdowns or odd samples. There are even several short, ambient instrumental tracks that act in a similar way, bridging moments of bliss with fuzzy atmospherics or pounding drums. They really don't shy away from the noise, either. "So Haunted," which was the first track to leak, alternates between pretty, lilting choruses and clanging post-punk guitar before giving way to a breakdown that sounds like it was taken straight off a German or French electro-house record. Seriously. And then there's "Far Away," which has got to be one of thee best songs this year. I don't really feel like saying much about it because it speaks for itself, but I would like to add that the breakdown on this one is one of my favorite moments on any recent album. That sample thrown in the middle of the song blows my mind, too.
In a million years I never would have expected this album. Somehow, Cut Copy became a truly original art rock band. Instead of straight ripping from their influences they built an homage to many of them. Everything comes down to influences these days, because it's so hard to sound new in an environment in which New Order and Daft Punk have as much influence as Prince and Brian Wilson. In Ghost Colours uses its influences perfectly, letting them in but allowing them to pass by freely without weighing the music down. This will hold up as a great album and will be hard to beat for my album of the year.
Posted by Gardner at 7:10 PM