Cut Copy’s musical universe, full of ’80s radio hits that never were, seems like an alternate version of our own. Free Your Mind, the band’s fourth LP, enhances that universe in typical Cut Copy fashion: Beats land heavy and strong, keyboards and synths ring out like beacons of truth, and Dan Whitford’s feather-light voice seems to float through the air. A lack of focus, however, keeps the album inches from greatness.
On Cut Copy’s previous records, opening songs “Need You Now” and “Feel The Love” served as welcoming entry points; similarly, Free Your Mind’s title track is a likable corker. The song has the simultaneously heavy and weightless sound that propels the band’s best songs, and follow-up “We Are Explorers,” a tense, glitchy shot in the arm, ranks among Cut Copy’s finest work. The album’s last few songs are also winners, including the sunny “Dark Corners & Mountain Tops” and “Meet Me In The House Of Love,” whose chirping synths and faux saxophones lend Free Your Mind some buoyancy. “Walking In The Sky,” a rousing, piano-driven ballad, is simply gorgeous.
Free Your Mind falters when this diversity gives way to generic synth-pop. The dull “Footsteps,” unwisely placed at the album’s center, lacks the personality of the album’s highlights. Four spoken interludes—featuring people recounting visions about riding a horse into the desert, floating above a city, and watching waves crash on the shore—further interrupt the momentum that the album works so hard to build. Penultimate track “Walking In The Sky” would have been a satisfying closer, but the hazy “Mantra” makes the record land with a thud instead of a bang. Nixing these tracks would have made Free Your Mind a taut, focused effort instead of the distracted, occasionally brilliant record that it is.
Cut Copy remains adept at blending organic and synthetic sounds to create soundscapes driven by melody and precision. For these reasons, Free Your Mind is a worthy addition to the band’s impressive catalog. Still, it’s hard not to think about the perfection that might have been.