This is a big day for new albums: Animal Collective’s Centipede Hz, Cat Power’s Sun, Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t, the Fresh & Onlys’ Long Slow Dance, plenty of others. And all the albums I named have good things going on. But other than the stunning Cat Power album, which I’ve already written about at length, my favorite LP of the week is one that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle on a busy release date like this one. Brooklyn’s Cult Of Youth, a band spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist Sean Ragon, specialize in a heady and ritualistic gothic churn. If I were them, I might’ve waited to drop the new Love Will Prevail until winter, since it’s a chilly and unforgiving piece of work. But it’s also catchy and propulsive and compulsively listenable, and it’s well worth your attention.
I first heard of Cult Of Youth because they were touring with Zola Jesus, and the two share a label affiliation and a broadly dark outlook. And it’s easy to picture Cult Of Youth as some sort of feral goth crew; Ragon’s mythic rasp certainly owes a lot to Nick Cave. But something that struck me about last year’s self-titled album, and just as much about Love Will Prevail, is how hard and fast the band plays. There’s a folk-music element to the band, but it’s not wispy forest-sprite stuff. They play their acoustic guitars like they’re trying to break them, and Ragon barks above them with all the quiet grace of a drunk Sinn Fein loyalist at closing time in a bar. If you went back in time and convinced all the preteen Dropkick Murphys that Bauhaus was cooler than the Anti-Nowhere League, you might wind up with something like this band: Hard-barking bashers who somehow bring a sense of the mythic uncanny to songs that would function just fine as drinking anthems.
Cult Of Youth is less than two years old, and Ragon and friends don’t switch things up much on Love Will Prevail. The slashing acoustic guitars and jittery strings and upside-down-bucket drums all remain, but they spend slightly less time lunging for the jugular. Ragon’s voice is less tortured scream, more Ian Curtis proclamation — though it can still rise to tortured-scream intensity when the song requires. There’s more fucking around with recording techniques — dub echoes, horn swells — and it brings even more of the flat echo, like it was recorded in a cavernous concrete basement. It’s a more confident album, though the old ferocity is still intact. And if you let the last album pass you by, this is a good place to jump on board; this band is only getting better.
Love Will Prevail is out now on Sacred Bones.
Other albums of note out this week:
• Animal Collective’s return to whorling, broken-brained psychedelia Centipede Hz.
• Jens Lekman’s breathy, introspective, sparklingly written comeback I Know What Love Isn’t.
• The Fresh & Onlys sharp grower of a psych-pop LP Long Slow Dance.
• Mount Eerie’s quiet and foreboding Ocean Roar.
• Deerhoof’s jittery but warm Breakup Song.
• Stars’ dramatically glimmering indie-pop return to form The North.
• Bob Mould’s guitar-driven OG-status Silver Age.
• Maria Minerva’s lo-fi dance-pop album Will Happiness Find Me.
• The Vaccines’ caffeinated Britpop sophomore joint The Vaccines Come Of Age.
• Azure Ray’s electro-folk experiment As Above So Below.
• Mono’s churning and epic post-rock effort For My Parents.
• The Music Tapes’ damaged psych-pop LP Mary’s Voice.
• Sondre Lerche’s live album Bootlegs.