On their new album Call of the Void, English synth-pop duo Lusts don’t stray too far outside of the musical boundaries they set up with their 2015 debut LP, but sticking to your guns isn’t always a bad move. Brothers Andy and James Stone understand their strengths and allure and there’s no shame in elevating your craft while staying in your lane.
Lusts take cues from ‘80s New Wave, indie rock and modern synth-rock with occasional swatches of post-punk and unlike other synth-pop groups that have emerged over the past few years, they don’t fully jump on the formulaic nostalgia train or venture so far into left-field that their pop hooks get lost in the shuffle. They operate in an effective, intriguing middle ground—sprinkling in atmospheric textures and effects where necessary, but allowing the melodies and bare bones of each song to lead the way.
“Heavy Thoughts” exudes a fierce agitation and is one of several tracks that channels anxiety and inner turmoil rather than hope or rectification. What opens with a run-of-the-mill synth line turns into a gripping, spacey dance-rock tune with a groovy sing-along chorus worthy of a New Order or Pet Shop Boys comparison. “Lost Highway” is a chugging, seductive pop duet and its lyrics evoke a futuristic, exhilarating late night car chase. While their sky-high lyrical themes of romance, escape and the desire for utopia in increasingly dystopian times might be predictable topics for a synth-pop record, they excel at matching the lyrical and musical aura of each song, so it feels somewhat forgivable.
Their effervescent synths and feverish beats certainly expand their sound and make this feel like a pop record, but it’s largely a guitar-driven album. Their radiating guitar and bass lines don’t just make up the foundation of these tracks—they are its power source and they’re just as much of a tone-setter as Andy Stone’s silvery lead vocals. While “Heavy Thoughts” and “Joy in a Joyless Place” might seem like more obvious contenders for the album’s standout track, “Heartbeats” is the pinnacle of their emotional deluge and the most worthy candidate. It taps into a bit of goth-rock with their Cure-like guitar tones, but make no mistake, the main attraction is Andy’s heartbreakingly beautiful, retro vocal performance (“There’s no moment I could ever leave you / But there’s always something getting in the way”).
There’s a slight dip in quality at the end of the record as “Zero” sounds a bit directionless and the spoken-word vocals on “Zebra” are a nice shakeup, but would be better off scattered sparingly throughout the record, instead of a sole appearance on the final track. Though not immune to brief speedbumps, Call of the Void is a synth-pop gift that keeps giving. Where other synth-pop and dance-rock groups might offer more compelling vocal harmonies or more interesting synths and loops, Lusts might very well outshine them in pure pop songwriting fundamentals. Their high-octane pop hooks and masterful chord progressions are immensely gratifying—making Call of the Void a record you’ll return to without hesitation.