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The Concretes - WYWH

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Artist: The Concretes

Album: WYWH

Label: Friendly Fire

Review date: Nov. 10, 2010

Let’s go ahead and assume that WYWH stands for “wish you were here.” Potential Pink Floyd infringement aside, why the acronym? Why not spell it out? Whose feelings are so vulnerable that an album of such wistfulness and barely concealed longing would stop short of wearing its feelings explicitly?

The album’s uncertainty about its own sentiment is probably its most compelling part. WYWH is a study in homebody sadness belied by shimmying, swaggering pop grooves, or maybe vice versa; it’s a disco album, but it’s halfhearted disco in the mode of Rubies or The Whitest Boy Alive. The juxtaposition of unadorned earnestness and bright-lights vamping isn’t new, but it succeeds here, if only because the line between success and failure is so slim. Sometimes mood and message barely seem convinced by one another; sometimes they combine in the form of something pregnant with inscrutable meaning. How, for instance, to read the chorus “We’re gonna stay in bed / All day, all day, all day, all day” atop a triumphantly mincing synth line?

WYWH is the sixth record for the Swedish octet and the second where former drummer Lisa Milberg assumes frontwomanhood from Victoria Bergsman, now doing business as Taken By Trees. Milberg’s voice is thicker, sadder, more like-it-or-not communicative than Bergsman’s, and her wistful reminiscences and vows to be better next time occupy the spotlight – so fully that it’s a little shocking, now and then, to remember that there are seven other Concretes. The subdued guitars and steady percussive clip-clop are a noticeable change from the band’s usual jangly late-afternoon pop, but even on the richest melodies (“Good Evening,” “Oh My Love”) lyrics and delivery drive the album. It’s not clear where they mean to drive it, which is half the fun.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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