I've taken my share of musical taste abuse over the years for being a huge fan of what is often incorrectly labeled as 50's "easy listening". To my shock a wonderful band called Cults came along last year and exploded with their music that is soaked in late 50's/early 60's influence. To clear something up, in every review or write up, music bloggers/journalists mistakenly refer to Cults as 50's nostalgia. The most basic version of this musical style began popping up in the mid 50's, but didn't find its shape or voice until the 1959-1964 period. The music that influenced Cults is mainly from the early 60's. Influence is always perceived as a dirty word, as if the band/artist stole, borrowed, or are somehow less original because they are influenced by predecessors. This is a ridiculous notion as all music is influenced by something in history. The secret is taking the influence and shaping it into something unique. Cults succeed in taking the music from the early 60's and putting a rich contemporary spin on the wonderful period of longing, heartbreak, and simpler times.
To begin, listen to this brand new track from Cults "You Know What I Mean".
The early 60's sound is defined by upfront vocals and back/forth hip swinging melodies. Cults are successful because they take these two simple notions and exaggerate each characteristic to make the music both more dramatic and contemporary. This style is very simple, yet talent demanding. There is no hiding behind gobs of digital voice effects and heavy reverb. To pull off this music the frontman/woman must have an enchanting, ear grabbing voice that drives the songs and ultimately defines the whole sound of the band. In the early 60's everyone was making the same formulaic melodies, it was the voice that separated the memorable from the forgettable. Cults are in good hands with the rich, confident, and personality packed vocals of frontwoman Madeline Follin.
With the success of Cults I began thinking that one of my favorite styles of music is suddenly in the foreground of the indie music scene. We will see other bands successfully tackle this time period (The Deloreans) and many to fail at mimicking the style (Tennis). Before the time period returns in full swing, only to disappear when a new taste of the month pops up, here is a look at some of my favorite late 50's/early 60's artists. If you're a vinyl fan, there isn't a better sounding time period on wax. Pour a glass of wine, pull your sweetheart close, and enjoy: