New York duo Cults struggled to piece together their fourth album. After all of the music was recorded, something wasn’t working and the two artists weren’t happy with it. “It just didn’t feel like an album yet,” says singer Madeline Follin. It wasn’t until she—for the first time—brought her own songs to the table that the album started to become more like what they’d envisioned.
The title Host is partly inspired by this newfound collaborative effort, while also playing with ideas of power dynamics and independence. Multi-instrumentalist/singer Brian Oblivion said of Follin’s contributions: “The music just floored us, and suddenly everything started to click.” For FLOOD, the duo broke down every track on Host, explaining themes of exploitation, addiction, relationships, and more. Listen along, and order the album here.
Focuses on the power that addictions and harmful ideologies have to transform. The chorus walks a tight rope between a metaphor for gaslighting and a despairing worry about the person you still hold out hope for.
2. “8th Ave”
A song we wrote a long time ago at our old studio on Eight Avenue across from Port Authority. It’s an area with a well documented history of exploitation and corruption, but freedom and acceptance as well. Sonically it sounded like what we saw out the window and the lyrics flowed from there.
3. “Spit You Out”
This the first song we wrote for this record, trying on some of our more left field influences from the exotica sounds of Esquivel to Nine Inch Nails–style heaviness. It focuses on parasitic relationships and breaking away from toxic patterns of interaction. We never imagined it would relate to a worldwide pandemic.
4. “A Low”
One of the few romanitic-ish songs on the record. It starts with a kind of Greek chorus, setting the scene for the narrator to step in. From there the song tries to explain how transformative relationships can be even in the deepest depression, and even when the other party isn’t aware.
5. “Honest Love”
A quick tune that harks back to our first show at the Mercury Lounge. It draws on the metaphor that the fear of unpreparedness to perform a show shares with feeling unprepared to form a new connection. It also explores the vulnerability that comes with singing a personal song to strangers and how that relates to having intimacy with a new person.
6. “Working It Over”
This is our power ballad and end of side A of the record. The song centers on the importance of holding close to personal support systems and fighting against escapism in the face of hopelessness. It’s a reminder that the past is not greater than the present, and the future is unknowable. You’re probably not going to live in space, so we have to work together to deal with the problems of right now if we want to find satisfaction.
7. “A Purgatory”
Cutting the strings on a manipulative relationship and exiting the purgatory that could have continued without action.
Impostor Syndrome is the name of the game here. There’s a particular fear you experience every time you hear your words and songs anywhere in public—that fear of inadequacy haunts every new effort. Masquerading is a kind of acceptance that you’ll always have to play different roles as this will likely never go away.
9. “No Risk”
Antithetical to the title, the song is all about the benefits of taking risks, and how difficult that can be as a woman when being constantly told in both transparent and subliminal ways that you’re “second best” or not worthy of the same voice. The song transforms the title from a place of complacency to a challenge to empower yourself.
10. “Like I Do”
The song starts with a boast (“Can’t nobody sleep like I do”), and gradually transforms into a song about self destructively sweeping your problems off to side so you can keep moving forward.
11. “Shoulders to My Feet”
Touches on the difficulty of fending off intrusive thoughts of the past or fears of the future that get in the way of pursuing something positive.
A kind of happy ending. Its about giving in, and getting outside yourself even if you aren’t sure what the outcome will be in the end. After a record of pain and self doubt, it’s a jump into the abyss.