By Justin Cudahy, Columns Director
Key Tracks: “Counting Down”, “Black Rainbows”, “Stars Last Me A Lifetime”
Back in September of 2016, fans of Australian synth-pop band Cut Copy were left scratching their heads when an EP under the name January Tape was released unannounced. The 43-minute collection of ambient instrumentals suggested that the group was possibly heading toward a new creative approach with their upcoming album, straying away from their usual synth-pop, dance style they’ve stuck with for the last 16 years. With the release of their latest LP, Haiku From Zero, a majority of fans will be pleased to find out the group sticks to their guns this time around.
While Cut Copy has remained relatively consistent in their kind of sound, which best falls into the electronica genre, each one of their albums up to this point has had the ability to generate its own unique sound and theme while staying true to their origins. Their debut album, Bright Like Neon Love, which blends electropop with alternative dance, was commended for its ability in “mixing emotion and technology to perfection” while 2011’s Zonoscope earned praise for its unique ‘80s African feel, which was influenced by groups such as Talking Heads and Grace Jones.
This time around, the band shoots for a more relaxed, ‘80s pop-rock kind of sound, with riffs from electric guitar popping up every now mixed in with heavy bassline as showcased in tracks such as “No Fixed Destination” and “Living Upside Down”. From there, Cut Copy hammers home the theme; a celebration of freedom and liveliness along with the pain of missing someone. Much of the LP’s cheery instrumentals is contrasted by vocalist, Dan Whitford, whose lyrics may suggest another underlying theme in the LP with lyrics such “Forgotten memories all we have had / Let me die tonight” coming off the track, “Coming Down” and “I need an angel / Don’t fail me now” from “Memories We Share” proving so.
The best thing about Haiku From Zero is that it remains consistent in almost every aspect. For instance, the foot-tapping almost never ends with its catchy instrumentals and the album rarely loses its momentum. However, the worst thing about Haiku From Zero is that it remains consistent. This includes structure, which almost replicates itself in nearly all the tracks. It becomes a motif for this album to end their songs almost the same way by including an instrumental break somewhere in the final 90 seconds. Then, finish it off with some repeated lyrics or vice versa. Tracks that fall guilty to this include “Counting Down”, “Airborne”, “Memories We Share” and a few more. While the first track or two may get a pass, the fifth or sixth one doesn’t get off as easily. This pattern becomes more blatantly obvious as the album progresses, and once you think about it, it’s hard to forget. Although it can be considered a common trait for the dance/electronic genre, it still doesn’t fix the problem that people will get bored with it eventually. For a group that some may consider being “veterans” in their genre, you’d expect more creative freedom with a record as fun as this.
Despite the lack of popularity Cut Copy maintains in the U.S., the group has certainly proven to be a staple of the synth-pop and electronica genre. While Haiku From Zero may not be their strongest album up to this point, it certainly sets itself up for even better things to come.