Cults, "Static"
Cults, "Static" (courtesy)
Static is particularly fitting name for Cults' sophomore record. That sounds like an insult, but it's not, really.

It's a wonder this album exists at all. After Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion broke up as a couple last year, they had some extended time apart that reportedly got a bit dark. On top of that, their New York City practice space flooded during Hurricane Sandy and much of their gear was destroyed.

Follin's voice sometimes approaches shrill, but thankfully is never strained too far. It works better, though, at a soft coo or when it's coasting steadily through a slow-burner like "TV Dream." Oblivion's backing vocals, whether by luck or design, always seem to compliment her perfectly.

There are some familiar sounds carrying over from Cults' self-titled debut, like the twinkling synth on "Always Forever" that recalls "Oh My God." And there's something about the shuffling drums and piano that sounds like "We've Got It." But even with those songs, there are new surprises. Buried in "We've Got It" is what sounds like a banjo.

The most notable difference on Static is a heaviness. In place of Cults' plinking bell sounds are swelling string sections and psych-rock effects. It's wonderfully noisy behind Follin's delicate voice (ever-echoing) on "So Far" and "We've Got It." And, of course, everything is a bit static-y.

Interpret "static" either way. Cults haven't changed too much, but this louder, grittier sound is a good way to make a small shift.