Cut Copy rarely misses a beat with gorgeous melodies.
Once poised for world-dominating success on the back of their breakout album, 2008’s In Ghost Colours, Cut Copy have since released a handful of albums to increasingly smaller, but perhaps more dedicated fanfare. This dip in visibility is particularly stinging as the quality of their work has gone undiminished—they’ve launched themselves into Balearic explorations of acid house (Free Your Mind) and Fleetwood-Mac-sampling prog dance (the ambitious Zonoscope) without a hint of wear or decay. Their fifth album, Haiku from Zero, continues their exploration through the varied decades of dance music while hinting towards what could be a sound wholly unique to themselves.
This album’s sunny disposition marks a move away from the darkened clubs that defined their last two efforts. Instead, Haiku from Zero harkens back to the more carefree days of In Ghost Colours and its emphasis on pure pop moments. Day-Glo, mid-aughts synths are replaced by African polyrhythms and chopped-up samples, but the same retro-meets-modern style of songwriting and production has also carried over. “Standing in the Middle of the Field” opens with those infectious polyrhythms held together by a tight kick and clap combo, before gloriously opening up into a hazy concoction of soft-focus synths and vocal harmonies. “Counting Down” is even quicker to leap into Highlife-inspired guitar lines and strutting rhythms, its loose arrangement giving the song ample time to leap between disco boogie and a dreamy, reverb heavy bridge. As is the case with Cut Copy’s previous four albums, Haiku from Zero is an immediately captivating listen.
Their attempts at disco balladry have also improved, the yearning melodies of “Stars Last Me a Lifetime” cast frontman Dan Whitford’s plea of “If I see you again/ Never will forget/ I can explain” against a prominent four-on-the-floor kick and constantly surging synth washes. Album closer “Tied to the Weather” is reminiscent of the psychedelic acoustics of Free Your Mind’s “Walking in the Sky,” though its melody is less ‘90s throwback and more modern pop with chopped vocals adding some contemporary texture. “You could see, I was wrong and you were right / We’ll always be tied to the weather / Take us together” may not be the most elegant sentiment, but Whitford has always relied more on earnest excitement and honesty than heavy-handed lyricism.
However, while there is an always-prevalent party mood throughout Haiku from Zero, things tend to be get somewhat repetitive. “Black Rainbows” merges tastefully thought out guitar hooks and a thumping bassline, but its simple beat sounds a bit like familiar ground. “No Fixed Destination” suffers a similar fate, though both songs still boast some delightfully catchy choruses.
“Airborne” fares better, its choppy guitars buoyed by a surprisingly light and bouncy rhythm section that gently lifts its chorus into a beautifully flanged arms in-the-air moment that could hold its own against their discography’s catchiest tracks. “Living Upside Down” also features those Nile Rodgers-esque disco guitars, along with a delirious refrain of “Help help help me up.” Moments like these, when every rhythmic strum and synth arpeggio gels together, are when Cut Copy really take off.
Haiku from Zero is more proof that Cut Copy rarely misses a beat with gorgeous melodies and uplifting chord changes. It seems almost implausible to complain about too many hooks, about too many smart chord progressions, but in a quest to streamline their sound, things have gotten a bit predictable. Thankfully, while Cut Copy may not always be new or different, they continue to produce high-quality music.