Simple, spacious synth-pop.
Currently, the synth-pop genre is overflowing with squeaky-clean production and vaguely optimistic lyrics. A plethora of groups constantly vie to provide the next dance-floor banger or summer anthem. Unsurprisingly, many artists offer up gimmicks and hopefully universal lyrics (think Icona Pop’s “Girlfriend”) to stand out from the crowd. As such, Australian quartet Cub Sport’s first LP, This Is Our Vice, is especially captivating due to its honesty and simplicity.
This Is Our Vice is deeply satisfying in an, at points, almost visceral way. Lead singer Tim Nelson’s comforting voice anchors upbeat tracks like “Sun” and “I Don’t Love My Baby,” but shines in the group’s ballads (“Come On Mess Me Up,” “Only Friend”). Slow, emotional songs, which often sound like filler tracks on synth-pop releases, constitute some of This Is Our Vice’s best moments. “Only Friend,” for example, hits the sweet spot; it’s contemplative without being melodramatic, placid without sounding lethargic. Even in their anthems, however, Cub Sport brings a welcome ear for simplicity.
The connection between drummer Dan Puusaari and bassist Zoe Davis builds a solid bedrock for Nelson and Sam Netterfield’s synth parts to explore. “It Kills Me,” the album’s third track opens with a minimal, lilting drumbeat, over which Cub Sport’s members collage two understated synthesizers and a jumble of palm-muted guitar strums.
Similarly, the album’s closing song, “Stay,” revolves around a plain, but penetrating, synthetic marimba riff. In many ways, “Stay” reveals Cub Sport’s multi-level focus. Puusaari’s metronomic drumming keeps the sparse synthesizers from sounding bare, but still leaves enough space for Nelson to belt in a powerful falsetto during the chorus. Truthfully, Cub Sport does not contribute much that will still feel relevant in five, or even three years time, but for the moment, This Is Our Vice is a careful, exciting album.