If you’ve heard of New York-based synthpop band Wet odds are you know your stuff. Kelly Zutrau, Joe Valle, and Marty Sulkow turned heads when they dropped their self-titled EP back in 2013. The four-song project was headlined by two of the stronger songs from this current album. Neither “You’re the Best” nor “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” epitomize the comprehensive feeling Don’t You induces. But that is what sets them apart from other Wet songs. I was drawn to those two, along with “Deadwater,” simply because they shied away from the monotonous sound attached to this album. Those songs actually had a pulse.
When the intro track “It’s All in Vain” begins, there is a shimmer of hope for this 11-song full-length debut. However, as the tracks end one by one, Don’t You becomes more of a lullaby than anything. That’s not to say there aren’t solid songs on here, though. The lyrical themes center around insecurity, loneliness, and emotional dependency. It’s evident in the album art: doubt and depression inch closer and closer, looking for a soul to cling to. The pain Zutrau portrays feels eerily surreal as she continues to bash whoever (occasionally her own conscience) it was that hurt her so badly. And from the sound of it, this dude deserves it. She incessantly attempts to pry answers out of anyone who might be listening to the age-old question, “Why me?”
That is one of the major gripes I have with this album. As fervently delicate as these lyrics are, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the amount of fragility. In Wet’s defense, if you were to take out each individual song and play them all to different people I am certain nearly every track would get a thumbs-up rating. Nevertheless, piecing all of these songs together on the same album makes 11 tracks feel like 15. Unfortunately, I don’t mean that in a good way. The countless tales of solitude and relationship anxiety are a formula for a hit-or-miss type of album. On one end of the spectrum, we want artists to dive deep into their souls and extract emotions with steely finesse. On the other end, we expect them to sound original and timeless anywhere between ten and 20 times on the same release. That is incredibly difficult; I get that. There is a reason why they are the ones busting their asses in the studio making beautiful music and I’m the one sitting here writing about it. I just gotta keep it real.
It’s understandable to write about similar topics in songs on the same album, but artists must tread carefully while doing so. One way to break the mold of redundancy is to express interchangeable emotions in new and creative ways in each song. Having said that, I found most of the songwriting on Don’t You to sound a bit elementary. Many of the cliché rhyme schemes such as “baby / crazy / save me” as well as the constant use of the word “lonely” made many of these tracks run together. Despite all that, a bright spot on this album was the consistency in the production and instrumentation.
Each track is wrapped in a mellow and serene bow which at times greatly complements Zutrau’s wispy falsetto. Alas, there are a few moments on this album where her voice is overshadowed by the backing music, allowing weaker spots in her vocal range to appear front and center. She does, in fact, have a wonderful voice. It’s simply not the strongest in some aspects.
To me, Don’t You suffers from careless ambiguity. There is not a healthy amount of progressive innovation in enough of these songs that helps Wet realize their potential. The despondent umbrella stationed over this album started off strong, but ultimately became too undeviating. There is definitely room for improvement here. However, this band is just getting their feet wet (no pun intended… okay, maybe just a little). There is no need to panic; Wet have plenty of talent. Next time, though, they will need to find that igniter that will distinguish themselves from the middle of the pack.