Four albums in, so what now for Cults? They could be forgiven for deciding to stay firmly in the retro-tinged indie-pop lane that has served them this well so far, but ‘Host’ instead marks the start of a whole new era for the New York City duo. With singer Madeline Follin bringing her own writing to the table for the first time to join with (now) co-writer Brian Oblivion, there is a freshness and spark around them that had perhaps gone slightly awol since their self-titled debut and the timeless ‘Go Outside’ (an anthem for 2020 if ever there was one) that sprang from it.
Opening with the lush ‘Trials’, it is quickly the nearest thing you can get musically to relaxing in a bath of warm honey (or so we’d imagine), or floating on a fluffy cloud if that’s more your thing. Regardless, their obvious fascination with 60’s musical stylings has never sounded more ‘Now’ - in fact, you half expect Killing Eve’s Villanelle to strut out of ‘8th Avenue’ so close to that soundtrack does it weave. Now, we are not in any way suggesting that Follin is a murderous assassin in her spare time, but that vibe of self-empowerment and strength perhaps fits the mood of a record packed with themes of extrication from a toxic and parasitic relationship. In some ways. Maybe it was just us.
In many ways though, ‘Host’ is the Air album that the French duo forgot to keep making, that same ever-so-slightly psychedelic haze and electro noodlings making for an electrifying start. There is something intoxicating and delicious about tracks like ‘Spit You Out’, while ‘A Low’ is simply beautiful even in its portrayal of hitting rock bottom. Though the record seems to run out of ideas (and steam) towards its end, it still throws open so many potential new doors for Cults that you had feared were closed forever that it still manages to feel like a win.