It’s not often that we come across a band that attempts so many different genres and makes each one work in a unique fashion. On The Concretes’ latest album, WYWH, lead vocalist Lisa Milberg and the rest of her seven-member gang introduce fans to a new psychedelic dance-pop sound wrapped around spacey guitar riffs and club-thumping beats. Compared to their folksy past, The Concretes are moving ahead into a space-age era but also bringing it back with a retro feel. This new direction for the Swedes presents itself nicely with an ’80s ambiance and Baltic-influenced sounds.
Though English is Milberg’s second language, WYWH finds her and her band executing heartfelt English lyrics with a Swedish charm. A sheer, flouncy aura envelopes the album as disco beats charge into the tracks, creating a complex, impressive arrangement. Though the melodies and harmonies remain stagnant, the instrumentals are complicated and clearly well thought out.
The strength of the album lies in its background. Though Milberg’s vocals are captivating and haunting, the instrumental component stands out. On songs like “Sing For Me,” cascades of sparkling wind-chime tremors grace the track, creating a dream-like atmosphere. On “My Ways,” woodblock clicks keep the rhythm of the song intact. The Concretes also play with out-of-the-ordinary sounds on “All Day,” using intergalactic, discothèque sound effects and disco-boogie guitar riffs that shoot across the track.
“What We’ve Become” also combines disco beats and an indie-scene dreamscape as Milberg sings, “What do you say we leave this perfectly good party / You and I have our own / We can drink whisky and play songs by Squeeze, John Cale and Paul Simon / And we could talk through the night.” The theme of wishful thinking and longing is what makes the album title so ambiguous. WYWH leaves the listener pondering if the album title is an acronym for “wish you were here” or “wish you were him” — or maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all.
Windblown reverb dances around blurry, dark synthetic sounds on tracks like “I Wish We’d Never Met” and “Crack In The Paint.” Somber sways of vocal harmonies coalesce with a bluesy bass line on the latter, which creates the album’s darkest sound. This portion of the album taps into a duskier psyche but is then pulled out of its slump with the poppy “All Day” and later, the cutesy, Zooey Deschanel-esque “Oh My Love.”
WYWH is The Concretes’ best album to date. It’s coherent and flows magically from one song to the next. If switching up their sound is what it takes to create a great album, then let the genre bending continue.