There's something to be said for boring music. This is the kind of music that you can use as an aural sedative for falling asleep. It's the music that blends into the background as you clank pots and pans in the kitchen, the music that no one pays attention to at a party. Still, somehow, you're happy it's there. All of this is how you might feel when you give the Concretes' new one a few listens.
The eight-person group of organ, trumpet and tambourine-toting Swedes run the gamut from immature, poppy puddle-jumping ditties to semi-serious orchestrated compositions with heralding trumpets and feverish guitars. The album slides off with "Say Something New," and within a few words it's hard not to notice some similarity between Victoria Bergsman's vocals and those of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. Bergsman's voice, however, hardly gives you the full-body vocal massage that Sandoval's does. For Sandoval fans, Bergsman might be aggravating to even listen to.
"You Can't Hurry Love," the record's second track, is a typical, choppy surfer-ish song - but it's a style that the Concretes do well. Sometimes it's so poppy that you could substitute it as a theme to a modern-day Beach Blanket Bingo. The Concretes easily produce light and fluffy twee pop, coated with a layer of powdered sugar. It's a trend that continues for the rest of the album.
At times, the Concretes get a little anxious, mishandling their instruments and ideas. There's a lot going on - and yet when it seems like it's about to be too much, Bergsman lassos it all together with her comparatively off-key voice. The combination of wailing instruments, plinking keys, jingling bells and discordant vocals keeps everything awkwardly manageable for listeners. It's like watching a gawky 8-year-old dance about the living room in her pajamas - embarrassing, but entertaining.
To their credit, however, the Concretes don't seem to take themselves too seriously. Each song is simple, with easy-to-follow directions - and the Concretes like that about themselves. On one track, they warble about making new friends; on another, they talk about the beauty of warm evenings. Their new album, though off-key, disjointed and at times too happy, is a perfect example of good, boring music that you don't have to pay attention to. In this case, it's not listening to the music that makes the album a worthwhile buy.