Cults – You Know What I Mean (2011)

When I thought about which modern Spector soundalike to write about this time, I was tempted to go for ‘Go Outside’ by noise-pop duo Cults. It’s a great song with a catchy use of glockenspiel that attests to their obvious love of the Wall of Sound and 60s reverb-drenched pop in general.

However, upon second thought I decided to feature ‘You Know What I Mean’ instead. That ballad is more fascinating to me since its retro Doo Wop-like chord progression contrasts interestingly with the type of synthetic Wall of Sound this duo cooks up.

Cults issued their debut album in 2011 after much hype following a self-released EP on Bandcamp. New York based, the duo is made up of singer Madeline Follin and guitarist Brian Oblivion. Together they are really good at writing sparkling cinematic pop that ghostly echoes a bygone era yet somehow sounds fresh and current. I highly recommend both their albums.


‘You Know What I Mean’ is a song I find irresistible in its over-the-top splendor. The delicate verses give way to a bombast chorus I bet would even make Spector nod approvingly. And dig that synthetic, shimmering drone in the background throughout the song. It sounds a bit like what Spector achieved in the 60s when blending a thousand fingerpicked acoustic guitars – here, my guess is that the effect is achieved electronically.

Together with a recurrent digital finger snap effect this electronic drone gives the song an eerie, artificial feel. Like the music of Swedish singer Lykke Li then, this is the Wall of Sound for the new Millennium. There’s hope for the future!


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