Brooklyn-based dream-pop band Wet makes an understandable but rookie mistake on its debut album Don’t You: It overproduces the hell out of it. Delicate melodies and airy vocals are often practically drowned in a wash of synth-laden effects, smoothing out any and all rough edges, and turning the album into an overly homogenous affair in the process. The stylistic impulse isn’t surprising: Lead singer Kelly Zutrau has cited the influence of lush ’90s R&B pop on the band, and you can hear the attempt to replicate those retro-friendly vibes on every track. But artists like TLC and Usher brought peaks and valleys of sound and emotion to their albums, moments that raised pulses and others that soothed them. Here, it’s entirely too much a one-note affair. With few welcome exceptions, the one-size-fits-all approach to the sound of these tracks makes them blur together into an easy-listening jumble.
The good here is still good, and holds promise for the future. “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” is as fragile and perfect as it was when the band originally released it as part of its first EP in 2013. With little more than her voice, some swirling synths and the periodic entrance of a minimal tom-tom rhythm, Zutrau delivers the ideal tragic breakup number, heartrending and relatable. “Island” is another standout, a languid piano and vocal combo that benefits from the sparse arrangement, with the only beat a rare, distant kick drum. “All The Ways” adds some uptempo R&B pulse to the proceedings, turning a worried lover’s torch song into a throbbing slinky number, even if Zutrau’s vocal lines don’t allow for much modulation or variety. And “These Days” is a lovely closer, with only a sweeping string paired to the piano and her voice. It proves that when the band steps out from behind the gauzy wash of reverb-drenched effects, and forges its own identity beyond those decades-past predecessors, it’s capable of real beauty.
But for far too much of Don’t You, the potential for affecting music is hampered by subjecting it all, ballad and beat-laden alike, to a stifling compression and abundance of effects. The music rarely has room to breathe underneath all the echo, reverb, doubling of vocals, instruments, and synth-heavy swirls of sound. It doesn’t help matters that the lyrics often succumb to the temptation of pop-song cliché. When there are this many “No one said it would be easy”s and “Oh baby, if you’re leaving”s sprinkled throughout, doubling down on the sounds of 1994’s most mainstream pop turns the entire thing into the cheesy prom photo of albums: It should be a momentous and meaningful affair, but you’re both wearing embarrassing outfits, and everyone ends up looking roughly the same.