Hey Trouble/Kids EP
Post Jari Haapalainen’s production of Camera Obscura’s latest album Let’s Get Out of This Country, it’s hard to fight the urge to compare all other albums he’s produced to what’s amounted to somewhat of a benchmark of current indie pop. The Concretes — who are synonymous with Haapalainen-production — are in some ways, the Swedish mirror image of Scotland’s Camera Obscura: both groups draw from nearly 50 years of girl group music history and both have female lead singers whose lyrical moods span lightly melancholy to gut-wrenching depression. Still, to peg The Concretes so easily does them a great disservice. Their brand of pop music is far less immediately accessible than most of this set, but ultimately just as rewarding.
The band’s subtlety and lack of desire to create bombastic pop songs are also their greatest assets. The short-lived wheezy title track which introduces the album sets this stage. Singer Lisa Milberg and her background vocalists create gorgeous, pristine harmonies while being backed by what sounds like an American Civil War band. It’s unexpected, but completely charming nonetheless. Of course, the band strolls back over the lines of normalcy on quite a few occasions as on the single, “Kids,” which pulses with a disco beat, “A Whale’s Heart” which drips with the gauzy guitars of Jesus and Mary Chain, while “Oh Boy” rides a wonderfully Felt-esque guitar lead. Funny enough both the full-length and EP’s strongest tracks are their most minimal closing moments. On Hey Trouble, horns and woodwinds are pulled from the ether and joined to heartbeat electronic percussion for “Simple Song,” a perfect frame for the hopeless/hopeful uncertainty of undefined romancein the lyrics. “Military Madness” rounds out Kids with little more than violin and reverbed guitar to shoulder support for Milberg’s solemn and heartbreaking statement “Military madness is killing my country/ Solitary sadness creeps over me.”
One constant that keeps all the material compelling is Lisa Milberg’s nuances and attention to detail. She has an eye for those simple things that bring the most joy and sting to every day life. On “Kids” she provides great lines like “Music could really knock you over back then/ So we would lie on the floor just to be safe” and the entirety of “Didion” revolves around her infatuation with Joan Didion’s writing and her “relationship” with her books (“You make me want to stay in bed all day/ I take you by the hand/ We seem to lose all track of time/ I glance at you and smile…”) It’s telling that the love portrayed in this song is the one most likely to result in a happy ending. It might not be the one to completely put Milberg’s mind at ease, but finding unequivocal happiness in any source is a boon. Even if it’s in an album called Hey Trouble…
Licking Fingers: www.lickingfingers.com