Wet’s debut was a long time coming.
Kelly Zutrau, Joe Valle, and Marty Sulkow have been creating and playing music together in different incarnations for nearly a decade. After coming together in Brooklyn as Wet in 2012, the three released a self-titled EP on Neon Gold and embarked on several tours, including high-profile runs with CHVRCHES and Tobias Jesso Jr., while intermittently working on their first album. The product of that work is Don’t You, a cohesive collection of new songs and updated versions of previously released songs like “You’re the Best” and “Move Me.” The album continues Wet’s established practice of crafting melancholic, dynamic music that embodies as much of the romantic defiance and surrender of ’90s R&B as it does the effortless cool of 2000s indie rock.
Don’t You is an album of contrasts. The most central of those is the one between its shades of the urban and the rural; between the detached yet culturally vibrant influence of New York City, where Wet have been building their career, and the influence of Western Massachusetts’ tranquil countryside, where they relocated to record. The electronic percussion and angular guitar lines that drive the album are crisp and staccato, conveying a tense, almost anxious quality, while bass tones, glittering waves of guitar, and warm synth pads saturate and soften the harder edges. The music is intricate, but it always moves in service of the melody; powerful string arrangements and layers of background vocals support the vocals as often as quiet washes of reverb, piano, and even stretches of silence do. These dynamics are most evident on “Body,” in which a climactic swell of rich string and synth tones momentarily lifts Zutrau’s vocals away from sparse beats and guitars as she implores: “Hold me in your arms / Shake me till I fall apart.”
Zutrau’s vocals on Don’t You exhibit a hushed restraint throughout that gives way to considerable agility in her earnest pop hooks and R&B-influenced runs. Her lyrics are conversational, straightforward, and confident in their vulnerability. Standout track and most recent single “All the Ways” exemplifies the album’s angst perfectly: “I don’t ever wanna leave you / I never wanna be alone again / But every time I see you / I think of all the ways that this could end.” Zutrau’s lyrical potency lies largely in her exploration and genuine embrace of loss, romantic or otherwise, and all the feelings of confusion and helplessness that come with it.
At first blush, Wet’s modern-sounding production may lead the band to be dismissively categorized as simply part of a new wave of indie-electronic acts gaining popularity via avenues like SoundCloud and SirusXM’s Alt Nation. However, the trio stand out due to their classic pop songwriting and adept command of sensibilities originating from R&B to indie rock to modern hip-hop production. Their music appeals to a post-FADER generation that recognizes that quality music does not have to exist along strict genre lines, and, most importantly, that you can cry to the same songs that you dance to.
Don’t You is out now on Columbia Records and streaming via Spotify.
Article by Brendan Gibson