Wet - Still Run (Album Review)

Tuesday, 07 August 2018 Written by Jennifer Geddes

Photo: Amber Mahoney

Change is the primary fuel for Wet’s second album, ‘Still Run’. Different influences, locations and relationships all conspired to signpost a new direction for the band while still retaining the core elements of their sound.

Their debut, ‘Don’t You’, released in 2016, saw producer Joe Valle mix electronic beats and atmospheric soundscapes with Kelly Zutrau’s soft, melancholic R&B melodies. Completing the trio was Marty Sulkow, on guitar, who left the group before the writing of the second album.

“I wanna go where the sun is shining and no one knows my name,” Zutrau sings, backed only by an acoustic, on the opening to Still Run. The singer temporarily moved to LA between albums and the track feels infused with the warm light of the west coast.

Zutrau and Valle’s relationship became very strained during the writing process, though, and the track There’s A Reason came to symbolise their partnership. One of the first that they wrote for this album, it never sounded quite right. They would give up on it only to be compelled to work on it again, with the song eventually coming together right at the very end.

“There's a reason you're by my side again,” Zutrau sings, her gentle vocals floating effervescently over an ambient score. It’s not a leap from their debut, but this time there’s more depth, as piano, strings, drums and steel string guitar all add greater texture.   

During the process Zutrau also worked with ex-Vampire Weekend man Rostam Batmanglij. You can hear the difference in Rostam’s tracks, which lean closer to more conventional pop music. You’re Not Wrong takes influence from the R&B groups of the ‘60s, while This Woman Loves You hypes up the album’s country influences with a track that probably came from a dream Dolly Parton once had.

Also among the credits we find Noah Beresin, who worked on the first album too, along with Loren Humphrey from Guards, and Andrew Sarlo, who produced Big Thief’s record last year. Beresin contributes to Visitor and 11 Hours, two of the album’s weaker tracks, but Sarlo helms one of the compositional highlights in Softens.

Here, Zutrau sings over a over a sparse bed of beats and synths until the strings come in, at which point her voice has some unexpected power behind it. “To light up your life. And you'll need it most in the dark in the dead of the night,” she tells us. But it’s the classic ‘80s gated reverb drums that make the track pack a punch, because even at its peak the song emotionally falls flat.

Wet, in fact, are much better at style over substance. The album sounds gorgeous but lacks heart, which is fine if you’re prioritising form over meaning in alternative R&B, electro or indie-pop. It works less well if you want to be a pop star. ‘Still Run’ falls somewhere in the gap between the two poles.

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