Cut Copy - Zonoscope
It's been quite the wait for the follow-up to Cut Copy's 2008 breakthrough In Ghost Colours, but Zonoscope fulfils its promise. The Aussie boys, signed to purveyors of cool Modular, prove that they're one of the most enticing electro-pop outfits around with an album that delivers on the expected club-baiting pop songs while simultaneously sliding down some more experimental paths. First and foremost, Cut Copy deliver on the tunes front, something bands of their 'type' often forget to do, getting lost in beats and bleeps instead. 'Need You Now', with its heartfelt plea of a chorus and synth soundscape swirling atop club beats, is a perfectly commendable slice of emotional electro (emoctro?); as an opener, it's sure to instantly win over anyone already missing LCD Soundsystem or awaiting the return of Friendly Fires.
Sooner rather than later though, Zonoscope establishes itself as an album that has a lot in common with the scope and ambition of last year's sophomore effort from Brooklyn-based Yeasayer. In Odd Blood, that band provided a pop-friendly upgrade of their warped experimental indie, bolting gay euphoria and '80s disco to their psychedelic, freakier leanings. Once 'Need You Now' draws the listener in as a statement of intent, Zonoscope provides more of the same crafted and concise electronic pop songs - yet disparate influences and sounds ensure each track possesses a singular identity.
Take lead single 'Take Me Over' which, during the first ten seconds of its intro, does a good job of convincing it's 'Land Down Under' before revealing itself as a soulful disco strut with one heck of a groove. 'Corner of the Sky' is a lush latecomer that begs to be played loud, frequently changing tack and tempo but with the gorgeous central hook from vocalist Dan Whitford never far away. Cut Copy's shape-shifting is no better demonstrated than on the finale, 15-minute odyssey 'Sun God', which might not keep you hooked all the way through but shows they're not one for resting on laurels - there is no place for laurel-resting on the dancefloor, after all. There seems to be a greater percussive drive to this album, perhaps in part thanks to producer Ben Allen, who has previously helmed Animal Collective; indeed, 'Where I'm Going' combines Beach Boys harmonies and tribal rhythms a la Merriweather Post Pavilion, yet never comes across as a rip-off.
Although Zonoscope gives 2011 the first great record of its particular genre, it does suffer from a mid-section that threatens a comedown. 'Strange Nostalgia for the Future' is a bit-part of a track that makes way for a couple of Doves-esque indie dance-rockers; 'This is All We've Got' comes close to anthemic and the choice to step sideways is further proof of the band's versatility, but the first and last act are much more accomplished. Still, I'd go as far as saying this album is one of February's vital listens, which is no small praise. If for nothing else, then at least check it out for it's awesome album cover art - global warming warning or Photoshop freak accident, either way it's visual stimulation to accompany the sensational sonics.