It opens with the sounds of an ethereal orchestra tuning up. Strings drone, synthesizers warp and waver, a guitar strums a single chord, a vocalist stretches to her higher register to ensure that she is ready to start. And then it launches. After an eerie introduction, the band known as Little Scream drops into an infectious, inviting pop tune. “Love as a Weapon” seems to present a fun, easily digestible album, but that introduction hints that Little Scream’s second album, Cult Following, may have a few twists and turns before the end.
My sense of Cult Following is that it travels through three distinct phases. It starts off light, enthusiastic, and catchy, easing the listener in with intricate and immediately lovable pop songs. “Introduction to Evan” signals the first change in pace. The next few tracks feature a raw intensity not found elsewhere on the record. Songs like “Evan” and “The Kissing” tap into dissonance, harsh, distorted guitars, and deep, escalating layers that create emotion-laden drama. “Wishing Well” begins another transition into the third phase: the surreal, ambient, and patient section of the album. Here, the busy nature of the early songs is held back, and space dominates. Cult Following winds down through a watery darkness, where the incremental modifications of synthesizers and fine vocal control create a constantly evolving soundscape. Through it all, the versatile voice of Laurel Sprengelmeyer acts as your guide.
I focus on the way this album moves as a unit because I feel this element really sets it apart from other indie pop artists. I must, however, also emphasize the incredible level of creativity, songwriting, and musicianship that is found front to back on Cult Following. Everything is carefully thought out and orchestrated. Every layer adds character and interest. It has songs for summer playlists and radio play, songs for contemplation, and songs for sheer emotional power, and all are crafted with ingenuity and expertise.
This was my first exposure to Little Scream, and it has absolutely put them on my radar. Any artist that can put forward an album of this quality needs to be heard. Go listen to Cult Following as soon as you can.