Going into this past week, I was fully prepared to label M83’s Saturdays=Youth as the finest “shameless ’80s appropriation album” that I’ve heard so far this year. But as much as I like Saturdays=Youth — indeed, it’s my favorite thing that Anthony Gonzalez and Co. have done to date — the simple fact is that Australia’s Cut Copy outdoes M83 at practically every turn.
However, one can really only describe the band’s latest — In Ghost Colours — as a “shameless ’80s appropriation” at the most cursory level.
There’s no denying that Dan Whitford, Tim Hoey, and Mitchell Scott have a great and undying love for the likes of Depeche Mode, Erasure, The Yaz, Human League, and of course, New Order. You can hear said love singing out in every arpeggiated synth line, every gorgeous call out, every ghostly wisp of a vocoder, every perfectly programmed beat, and every time Whitford sings in that delightfully deadpan voice of his about unrequited love, youthful lust for life, and the joys of exorcising and fulfilling such things out there on the dance floor.
However, Cut Copy’s sound is far more mercurial than that. The fifteen songs on In Ghost Colours are dense, man. You can listen to them twenty times and you still won’t hear all of the sonic details contained therein. What’s more, the band weaves in other genres beyond just the ’80s-influenced synth and dance-pop that are their music’s most obvious features.
There are bits of trance-y ambient and psychedelia drifting throughout the album, such as on segues like “We Fight for Diamonds” and “Voice In Quartz.” And there are some tracks that are, for all intents and purposes, out and out rockers. “Unforgettable Season” and “Midnight Runner” are more Ric Ocasek than Bernard Sumner, and “So Haunted” bounces back and forth between shoegazer-y buzzsaw guitars, and more psych-y, spaced out, and acoustic driven sections.
But ultimately, everything comes back to the dance floor, shrouded in smoke, bathed in strobes, and filled with sweaty writhing bodies. The album begins with the lovely trifecta of “Feel The Love,” “Out There On The Ice,” and “Lights & Music,” and it’s almost impossible to resist the band’s call to join them out there amidst the pulsing masses.
That’s why I find this album so fetching. As you listen to In Ghost Colours, you continually get the sense that the band made this album for their own pleasure as much as anyone else’s, and perhaps even moreso. What else can explain sounds this jubilant and exultant?
Yes, the trio expresses much of that joy by referencing and hitting on a lot of time-honored standards from a very defined moment in music history, one that’s been mined countless times by countless others — and there’s bound to be a lot of nostalgia packed into that approach. However, there’s never a sense that the band is simply wallowing in said nostalgia, or using it merely for its own sake. Rather, they’ve taken an obvious love of the past, and are using it to paint exciting new possibilities.
However you want to describe it, the result is an album that feels retro only in that it sounds like the futuristic dreams and visions of those past artists fully realized. And it does so without sacrificing any fun, emotion, or heart. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I’ve been listening to the disc only to suddenly jump up from my chair and start swaying to the beat, or begin pantomiming a keytar. Which is as much proof as I need for In Ghost Colours’s greatness.