Minnesota-based indie large ensemble Cloud Cult deals in huge, sweeping gestures and epic productions. Love is their ninth album, a glossy and ornamented affair following eight other albums that are, for the most part, equally over-the-top expressions of extreme emotions. The band has moved from its Beck-ish beginnings into the ever-climaxing kind of life-affirming, celebratory indie rock made popular by the Arcade Fire, Polyphonic Spree, or Danielson. Singer/principle songwriter Craig Minowa guides his large group arrangements through both sparkling, spare, strings-heavy ballads like "You're the Only Thing in Your Way," and yelpy singalong rockers like "Complicated Creation." The production is crisp and booming, stuffing dozens of instruments and counter melodies into concise, crystal-clear end products. Whether it's the sound of a roomful of people shouting over Neutral Milk Hotel-style marching drum or the glistening Belle & Sebastian-esque trumpet moments of "Good Friend," everything is in perfect focus, broadcasting Minowa's searching compositions in the most luminescent way possible. The majority of the songs deal with general life affirmation and optimistic looks at life's cycles of joy and pain. While there's no denying Love is a big-hearted affair, it's also an overbearing one, with Cloud Cult a little too dead-set on screaming their heartbreaks and daily victories of the human spirit from the mountaintop to not feel a little staged. While directly borrowing styles from various better-known indie groups (Bright Eyes' vocal quaver, M83's grainy atmospheric interludes with spoken samples, Arcade Fire's everything), Cloud Cult's take on these elements comes off as pushy at best, disingenuous at worst. The "let's run away and get married" sentiments of "Meet Me Where You're Going" are so saccharine they feel void of any meaning. Likewise, the perfectly constructed emotional arcs of most of the songs seem so manufactured that even the rough edges feel intentional and put on. The songs on Love focus on chaotic human sounds and feelings, but polish them to an un-human degree, ending up with the type of perfected imperfection that ultimately just sounds like a commercial or the heart-string-tugging closing credits to any anonymous indie film. While pleasant enough, and not lacking in detail and fervor, the passion presented on Love is so by-the-numbers that it becomes ignorable.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas