Review: Wet – Don’t You

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The minimalist fluid production and gently spacious vocals in which Wet envelop their songs makes this album a unique and often mesmerising listen.

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The minimalist fluid production and gently spacious vocals in which Wet envelop their songs makes Don’t You a unique and often mesmerising listen.  This comes in contrast to the innate bitterness of the subjects discussed – on this debut LP, breakup is the overarching theme, illustrated lyrically as a complex mix of heartbreak, estrangement, but also emotional dependency and paralysing fear.

Singer-songwriter Kelly Zutrau’s deeply personal lyrics give the songs poignant specificity, while her graceful vocal delivery is perfectly complemented by bandmates Joe Valle and Marty Sulkow’s production and instrumentation. Their sound is perhaps most reminiscent of Tei Shi’s take on smooth electro-pop, although Wet’s approach feels warmer and more intimate. Indeed, the band’s elegant, shimmering take on heartbreak can have a soothing effect.

Some truly beautiful tracks are ‘Deadwater’, ‘Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl’, and ‘You’re The Best’, which have all been previously released either as singles or on the band’s EP. (This live performance of ‘You’re the Best’, in a far more stripped-down style than the record version, is quite stunning.)

Zutrau’s lyrics concerning the complex nature of breakup (whether past or imminent) are particularly acute, touch on the fine balance between the vulnerability of complete openness and the coldness of remaining guarded, on disillusionment and emotional alienation, and on loneliness. Often the themes discussed suggest deeper, more piercing problems. Track ‘Weak’ presents a troublingly toxic relationship, which seems to have become a lifeline and refuge from significant personal demons, and towards which complete dependency has been developed. The theme of a relationship being the centre of one’s emotional universe,  and one’s desperately needed lifeline reappears on ‘Move Me’ (“Can you save me/ or move me”). Lyrics suggesting a very sad and tormented emotional state appear often, but are nonetheless delivered in a cool-headed and graceful manner, which somewhat alleviates the, at times worrying, gravity of the lyrical content.

Stylistically, the band’s insistence on a low-key, low-tempo approach, and the recurrence of sad wistful breakup lyrics, without any signs of passion or zest, might occasionally make their sound seem listless and one-dimensional.  Track ‘All the Ways’ and the mid-tempo ‘Move Me’ stand out as the more upbeat songs on this album, even though again the lyrics do not stray far from dependency, emotional alienation, and paralysing insecurity in the face of the looming possibility of breakup. A moment of hope for a way out of the sadness comes in ‘Deadwater’, in which elements of positivity surface, suggesting a more hopeful and confident outlook on life.

Overall, Don’t You offers a tastefully crafted sound  – minimal, spacious and warm, which can often be captivating. Injecting some more vitality and joie de vivre into this aesthetic, both lyrically and musically, could help the band’s sound evolve towards a more balanced, spirited and ultimately richer emotional space.

Don’t You is out now via Columbia Records/National Anthem.

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