Coming four years after its predecessor, 2005’s “Cute,” this new album by Hazel Nuts Chocolate, the solo project of singer and former capsule collaborator Yuppa, marks the end of a long wait by fans. However, the familiarity of the early tracks on “Cult,” like the lo-fi tropicalia of “Moon Song” and “Kitten’s Breaks” with its mixture of meowing samples and Yuppa’s cooing vocals, might leave many wondering where that time went.
Even more than on its predecessor, though, “Cult” is a defiantly girly album, with Yuppa bringing in her bandmate Moe from the duo Love & Hates as a guest vocalist to complete the slumber party atmosphere. Throughout, Yuppa dances precariously along the boundary between irony and wide-eyed sincerity, with images recruited from fairy-tales and children’s stories abounding in songs such as “Witches’ Party” and “A Troll’s Dream”.
Like all fairy-tales, however, “Cult” has a dark side. It evokes memories of childhood, playing off the listener’s nostalgia not just for innocence, but also the freedom to be selfish and cruel without the guilt that the adult world assigns to such behavior. Going into the latter half, the music begins to takes on a more sinister edge, with “Arabian Nights” hinting at mystery and the sitar-led Bollywood two-step of “Figure Shout” representing a kind of dark chocolate to the earlier tracks’ sugar candy. It’s the track “Girls Don’t Cry,” though, that best encapsulates the album’s attitude, blending the animal samples and occasionally childlike instrumentation with an electro edge and the attitude of a coquettish riot grrrl.