A love of Phil Spector has gone into the Concretes’s production. Maybe Stockholm, Sweden had a surplus of dollar-bin Crystals LPs when this eight-piece began putting things together for their Astralwerks debut. The Concretes’s fondess for sixties girl groups comes across in their melodies and drum structures and overtly in song titles like “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “Diana Ross.” The ‘Cretes are guilty of taking the same nostalgic approach as the Raveonettes, but they’re far less noisy, bringing the signature subtle Astralwerks warmth — and plenty of tambourines — to the roster.
Concretes leader Victoria Bergsman delivers lines like “Only kiss me if the light is right” in a wavering Hope Sandoval-beckoning-to-the-stars manner, and does so over a lush carousel waltz in “Warm Night.” Those sentiments only occupy that track for a moment; the rest of “Warm Night” is backup vocals, carnival Wurlitzer and heavenly strings. The gun-toting Spector is nowhere in sight for this one; it’s just the Concretes over a father-daughter wedding-dance number, and it’s where the band rises above the ubiquitous references to other bands that I began this piece with.
The Concretes fill as much of their debut with melancholy minor-key guitar work as they do with bouncy pop hits. The balance is comfortable, but upbeat openers “Say Something New” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” are rarely one-upped, except in the aforementioned “Warm Night.” The album weighed down by a few dismal numbers that run too long. That said, the Concretes aren’t entirely defined by their influences, and they bring a lot more than noteworthy production, such as distinctive songwriting and arrangements. The debut is a strong enough launch pad for what’s to come, as long as the band explores any one of many possible directions.