A Pretty OK Song: "Lately" - Wet
It's 2016, and I'm at my first ever music festival. I've been a music junkie for a long time, so this feels way overdue. My body is wrecked from the overnight drive to Tennessee, but there's so much electricity in the air that my excitement outweighs the exhaustion. My friends and I took the first evening slow, hanging back and listening to shows from afar. But it's almost time for the first show that I'm really here to see: Hermitude.
At the time, I'm very into Australian electronic music, and I can't wait to hear their drops live. One thing leads to another, though, and I find myself at Bonnaroo's smallest stage, the Who. I look down at my schedule to see who's performing: a band called Wet. My two friends can't shut up about the group, so I'm intrigued, and when they tell me that we'll be in the front row, I fold and give up on seeing Hermitude. I can't resist being in the front row; it's an intoxicating experience. Turns out I made a great decision.
I find myself leaning against the railing in the front row. The sun is setting behind the Who stage, and temperatures are finally dropping. As the sun disappears below the horizon, the stage lights up and Wet step out to perform. The synth is pulsing out of the speakers, burrowing directly into my skin from the first note. Then Kelly Zutrau starts singing, and I'm immediately hooked. I become like my friends who can't shut up about Wet, and as soon as I get home, I buy their debut album, Don't You.
At the time of the Bonnaroo show, Wet was a three-piece band founded in Brooklyn. But when it came time to record Don't You, Zutrau, Joe Valle, and Marty Sulkow headed to western Massachusetts. It's a very cohesive record; they played the whole thing at Bonnaroo, and I couldn't believe how well everything fit together.
The band took a break from releasing new music after that, but Zutrau and Valle have put out new singles in 2018 in advance of their second album, Still Run, which came out last week. The first two singles, "There's a Reason" and "Softens," were a big departure from their previous output--they're upbeat pop tunes. "Lately," though, is more familiar. It reminds me of that self-titled EP, which fills me with hope. There's a lot of similarity between Wet and London Grammar: warm synths, loose drums, and strong female vocals.
"Lately" opens with quiet synth lines and Zutrau's vocals. Soft percussion comes in after a few bars, then builds as a plucked guitar enters the mix. After a few choruses, the song fades out, giving way to a nearly a cappella bridge, then Zutrau brings you into the climactic moment of the track. The best way I can describe it is spine-tingling. That mix of intimacy and physical power is what I loved about Wet when I saw them at Bonnaroo, and I felt the same way when I first heard "Lately."
The song talks about a relationship where Zutrau is putting in more than she's getting out. There's a good message of self-empowerment, but I care more about the vocal tone than the lyrics themselves. Her voice is a captivating mix of ethereal highs and warm lows that infuses every song with sadness and longing. Her range stands out in a line from the second verse: Oh I use up all my energy just to make sure that you know you're important / And you never like how my song sounds, but you give nothing of yourself. It starts low, almost sensual, then transitions to those exquisite highs in a way that you feel deep in your bones.
Wet left a hell of a first impression on me back in 2016. I've tried in vain to see them live again, but I'm hopeful that it will happen soon. "Lately" brought back vivid memories of that night in Manchester, and I can't wait to keep exploring that feeling.
Until next week.