The Concretes. Why a band capable of creating such delicately delicious pop has lumbered themselves with such an unwieldy example of the ‘The-somethings’ school of band-naming is anyone’s business. Somewhere in popland the Random Noun Generator has clearly gone into overdrive. What next? The Anchovies? The Coffee Cups? The Cardigans? Oh, wait…
Actually, it’s apt to reference The Cardigans as The Concretes also hail from Scandinavia, though their music has more ethereal, layered quality than the former’s purer pop. The Concretes are a Stockholm-based octet and in Victoria Bergsman they have a lead vocalist whose breathy, occasionally indistinct voice recalls Mazzy Star‘s Hope Sandoval.
Their latest album, In Colour, opens with the plinky piano of On The Radio, a deceptively infectious piece of near pop perfection. Full of bright harmonies, it belongs, as its name suggests, on the radio, spreading Sunday morning smiles. This then gives way to the laidback Sunbeams with its mournful horns and its tender repeated plea to “spend some time in the shade with me.”
The bittersweet Your Call sees Bergsman dueting, rather appropriately, with fellow purveyor of gently shimmering pop music, the The Magic Numbers‘ Romeo Stodart. “Believe me, I’d take it all back if I could,” she whispers before joining him in the almost stalkerish chorus of: “I call you; hang up.” It’s a song that I was uncertain about the first time I heard it, but it exacts a growing charm with repeated listens.
That’s true of the album as a whole, the off-kilter choruses and softly-voiced lyrics take their time to reveal themselves. Bergsman’s accented English infuses the proceedings with a sweet melancholy but it is occasionally hard to penetrate. On first impression however, the music can come across as rather soft-edged and overly floaty, the songs blending into one another.
Repeated plays of In Colour reward the listener with further well-crafted gems. The wistful soundscape of Tomorrow gives way to the percussive narrative ramble of As Four. But these both pale alongside the joyful closing track Song For The Songs. Strangely, but undeniably uplifting, it sees Bergsman reminiscing, amongst other things, about “a crazy man from Mexico” and combines spurts of strings, a dash of trumpet and even a little flourish on the castanets. It’s bright and catchy, with an element of something almost child-like about it, a gleeful exuberance, and encapsulates what The Concretes are best at. Pop without the clichés; songs that catch you off guard.
The Concretes make intelligent, evocative pop music. In Colour is ultimately more pastel than primary but it draws from a very broad palette.