Concretes Album cover

When I first wake up in the morning my mood is almost always tenuously neutral. Neither good nor bad, as if my whole being is waiting for some outside stimuli to inform how the rest of my day will unfold. The balance is so delicate; a good cup of coffee can send me skipping out into the world, spreading joy and wonder to those who surround me. Conversely, a stubbed toe on my way to the coffee maker will almost definitely ensure that I will fly into fits of unwarranted rage directed at whoever is unfortunate enough to look directly into my eyes. Yeah, I might have some emotional problems. So what can be done to tip the scales towards kindness and positivity and keep me from unleashing my petulant toxicity all over the rest of you? What is the remedy? The Concretes.

The Concretes Live

The Concretes performing live

This self-titled 2003 release by Sweden’s own sons and daughters is an inspiring way to start your day, whether you’re an emotionally retarded lunatic or not. It is sweet, but not cloyingly so. The vocals, provided by Victoria Bergsman, are so clear, confident and yet wholly unassuming that they immediately lull me into submission, kind of like a lovely morphine haze with a slight Nordic accent.

Bright horns and understated keys accent simple guitar lines, all following a drum sound that is timeless and satisfying. There seems to be a preoccupation with Diana Ross (seriously, there is a song called “You Can’t Hurry Love” and, more on the nose, a track actually called “Diana Ross”) that really comes across in the overall tone of the album, and yet I couldn’t really tell you why.

Stand out tracks on the album really depend on the mood you’re in. The aforementioned “You Can’t Hurry Love” and the enthusiastic “Seems Fine” make me want to bound down the busy afternoon street, smiling, winking and shooting finger guns at everyone I pass. “Chico” and “Foreign Country” put me on a small town patio at dusk, sharing wordless serenity with people I love.

What strikes me most about this album is its entire lack of cynicism. Having been a teenager in the early 90’s, detached irony and disdain for pretty much everything were bred into me pretty hard. This album’s earnest nature and powerful enthusiasm are a beautiful antidote to that.

I urge you to add this album to your collection. And if you decide not to, you should at least appreciate that it’s out there, making jerks like me a little easier to deal with.

                                                                                                                               Casey Lyons