album reviews

the Concretes
Friendly Fire (2010)

Kindred spirits: Belle & Sebastian, Mazzy Star, Velocity Girl

When vocalist Victoria Bergsman left the Concretes in 2006, she didn't exactly leave a dent in the Swedish indie-pop group's membership: The band still boasts eight musicians, which is more than enough to fill the dreamy twee-pop sound that permeates "WYWH," its latest album (and second without Bergsman).

But Bergsman's departure is still felt vocally. Her distinctive voice is immediately recognizable, and without it, the Concretes' laid-back sound fades into the background.

New lead singer Lisa Milberg certainly has a pleasant voice, but her breathy pout makes these songs sound more ambient than emotional. The dreamy "I Wish We'd Never Met" feels pensively detached, never capturing the vitriol in its title, while the wistful "Oh My Love" builds a trancelike feel through lyrical repetitions.

The Milberg-led Concretes are a shadow of what the group could have been, but the band does command attention on a few moments on "WYWH." A dance beat gives a much-needed energy to "What We've Become," and Milberg musters a sassy demeanor that's a welcome departure from the band's otherwise placid mood.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 21 January 2011
.: WYWH on