Schizoid though it might be, hipster America’s ongoing obsession with alcohol-soaked French-kiss dance music is at least breaking Wilco’s stranglehold on the car commercial. The first time “Genesis” tried to sell me an Escalade my ironic facial hair nearly burst into flame. Whether or not in 15 years, as a recent Stereogum poster posited, we’ll laugh at ourselves for liking Justice is beside the point. Right now give me the disco and hold the panic. If this summer Hercules & Love Affair came thrumming through Ikea I wouldn’t bat an eye, I’d be approximately ecstatic and I don’t even like that record very much.
A record I do like very much (ooh! segue!) is Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours. You need this record if for no other reason than that it sounds exactly like April through June, when it’s hot but not real hot, the girls are half-dressed, not half-naked, and the beach has Tilda Swinton on it. In Ghost Colours seems to have been inspired to varying degrees by settling L.A. dust, the way the sky must look at certain points in the Australian outback, a sort of Mercury Rev expressionism, mid-period Depeche Mode, and really glitzy keyboards—not ones studded in rhinestones, mind you. Of course, I can’t prove any of this. I can’t prove it’s the best album of the year so far, necessarily, either but you could always take my word for it. Isn’t that why we’re here? Suffice to say In Ghost Colours arrives at a near-perfect principle of dance-pop, splitting the difference between the disco and the dashboard with millimetric precision. To put it another way it’s a road record to shake a martini to and a club record you can blast through rolled-down windows on the long, hard, shimmering slog to Santa Fe.
The early singles, “Hearts On Fire,” here in a re-recorded album version, and “Lights & Music” have been knifing through corner danceterias for enough months to already qualify as staples, but “Out There On The Ice” almost trumps both with a splendid metaphor of dancefloor-as-frozen pond and vocalist Dan Whitford doing Dave Gahan at his most stereophonic: “yes no maybe/ is all I need to hear from you.” You almost have to hear it to believe it. On leadoff track “Feel The Love” flirty synths play tag with some expertly-placed `oooh’s—when they’re done you’ll feel like you’re it. (See also: the band’s love-in-the-afternoon remix of Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Forget” from a while back.)
“Midnight Runner,” drenched in reverb and beautifully filtered background vocals, sounds like The Church with Adam Clayton on bass. Actually the same goes for “So Haunted” on which Whitford sings “what’s that you see/ there’s all these satellites, satellites, satellites/ haunting you and me” The bridge to “So Haunted,” sugared in synths with Whitford more or less sing-songing “holidays, holidays” might be my favorite segment of music so far this year. Everywhere else on In Ghost Colors it’s lush, lush pop with flags and hearts aflutter, twinkles and scrims of electro-light, 4/4 keyboards, piped-in crowd noise, wonky sax, and background vocals that muse and lope languidly around deserted headspaces and shit. A woozily conjectured, dizzily romantic dream record.
Depeche Mode – Black Celebration
Mercury Rev – Deserters Songs
The Presets – Beams
MP3: “Lights and Music”