In Ghost Colours announces itself, calmly but majestically, with a wash of hazy voices and fluttering keyboards giving way to crystal-clear acoustic strums, languid indie pop vocals, a sturdy dance-rock groove, pulsating electro-disco synths, swirling Caribou-style psychedelics, and an ethereal, vocoded chorus melody. Squeezing all of that into one song -- the effervescent "Feel the Love" -- is an ambitious move: in most hands it would come out sounding like a bewildering mess but Cut Copy manage to keep it light, breezy, and utterly ebullient. Even more impressive is that they're able to replicate the trick repeatedly across this remarkably assured sophomore album. Colours boasts at least a half-dozen potential summer anthems for dancefloors and headphones alike, seamlessly strung together with subdued interstitial mood pieces that help make it more of a nuanced work than a straightforward collection of relentlessly upbeat dance jams. Undeniably, though, the dance jams are at the heart of the album, from the unstoppably glittery opening trio (leading up to the anthemic slow-burn disco of single "Lights and Music") to the rough-edged rock drive of "So Haunted" to the pure synth pop bliss of "Far Away." Indeed, this is in many ways a perfect summation of the dynamic, multifaceted, hipster-associated independent dance music of the 2000s, a motley interweaving of pop, rock, and electronic dance elements into a kaleidoscopic array of interconnected styles, some strands of which have been summarily, imprecisely tagged ("disco-punk," "electro-house," "new rave,") but which as a whole remain resolutely, gloriously nebulous and undefined. (Though nevertheless undeniably prevalent, and never more so than in 2008, following triumphant runs by LCD Soundsystem, Justice, and Simian Mobile Disco.)
Cut Copy's music bears all the prominent hallmarks of its era: giddily omnivorous stylistic appropriation, a sensuous, sybaritic (though not, in their case, seedy) demeanor, and the distinct evocation of bygone decades, most palpably the ubiquitous post-punk/post-disco '80s, without succumbing to the pitfalls of overzealous eclecticism, empty hedonism, sugary glut, and blatant derivativeness. Or rather, they do show traces of all of these things, but they play each one off as a strength, always in moderation, and never to the detriment of the music. The eclecticism is there but it's fluid and cohesive rather than distractingly showy; their influence-dogging plays like affectionate homage rather than pointless mimicry; there's an abundance of gleaming, even gaudy surfaces, but they're just too rapturously enticing to entertain qualms about superficiality. It surely helps that they have one of the primary architects of this sprawling scene, the DFA's Tim Goldsworthy, on board as a producer and mixer. More importantly though, beneath its perfectly formed surfaces this is truly an album of songs -- a surprisingly rare thing in this milieu -- with simple but resonant melodies, carried by Dan Whitford's appealingly casual delivery, which help alleviate a slight tendency toward sonic sameness. This is evident not only on the gentler guitar-based numbers, like the loping "Unforgettable Season" and the oddly country-inflected "Strangers in the Wind," which temporarily scale back the dancefloor euphorics, but the out-and-out burners as well, combining with the peppy basslines and nagging chorus hooks to create something all the more transcendent. To be sure, In Ghost Colours is a triumph of craftsmanship rather than vision -- a synthesis and refinement of existing sounds rather than anything dramatically new and original -- but it is an unalloyed triumph nonetheless, and one of the finest albums of its kind.