Sound: Unfazed, dryly ironic indie post-punk that dedicates itself to whimsy If you like: Tiger Trap, Sleater-Kinney, Snail Mail Why you should listen: Wet Leg appeared out of nowhere and instantly became the indie band on everyone’s lips — their distinctly vintage post-punk sensibilities and dry, almost apathetic vocal style beg to be paired with over-the-ear headphones and dark lipstick. Not since the ’90s has a deadpan woman vocalist monologued against fuzzed-out guitar with such charm! Best track:Too Late Now
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In the ’90s and 2000s, bands like Le Tigre and Tiger Trap built a generation-defining soundtrack to the ennui, angst and whimsy inherent in being a young woman of the times. It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve had truly definitive alternative music — the kind of music that begs to soundtrack indie films and Instagram posts alike — but with their new, eponymous album, indie rising stars Wet Leg are here to take up the mantle. They’ve swapped out some of the vintage talking points with contemporary updates, trafficking in references to doomscrolling, dating apps and 21st century malaise. In lesser works, these modern references can feel forced, but here, they slip into the lush scenery of Wet Leg’s world with perfect cohesion.
Their debut single, the irresistibly unserious Chaise Longue, instantly made the Isle of Wight duo the indie act on everyone’s lips, and their momentum hasn’t slowed down for a second in the 10 months since they exploded onto the scene. Their virality inspired backlash, and then backlash to the backlash — viewers accused them of being “industry plants” and called them overrated before they’d even been rated at all.
With lyrics like “Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” deadpanned over looping basslines and shimmering drums, some critics considered their debut a risky choice — it’s easy to hear a funny song and assume the band can’t deliver anything beyond the bit. But Wet Leg’s phenomenal debut makes it feel like there might actually be nothing they can’t do.
The album is propelled by grunge-y, dance-punk tracks like Chaise Longue, Angelica and Wet Dream, the latter of which is a rapid-fire ode to the modern dating experience (who among us hasn’t been lured back to a guy’s place by the promise of Buffalo ’66 on DVD?). “What makes you think you’re good enough to think about me when you’re touching yourself?” asks vocalist Rhian Teasdale on the track, with a kind of dissociative glamour that makes you desperately wish you’d thought of it first.
Even when dealing with the stomach-churning rollercoasters of love, sex and maturity, the duo is so obviously having fun that listening to them talk about their problems genuinely makes you feel better about yours. Every line is delivered with a wink and a grin, like we’re all sharing in some cosmic inside joke — and isn’t that kind of what being in your 20s is supposed to feel like, anyway?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cool is a lost art. Popular culture is so sopping with desperation and manufactured marketability that even the most talented artists often betray a cloying need for approval that nips in the bud any chance of a rock-star factor. Why should we idolize someone who doesn’t even seem to think they should be idolized? I don’t want my heroes to care what I think!
This is the fundamental appeal of Wet Leg: they don’t care what I think. They don’t care about this review, just like they didn’t seem to care about the waves of attention (and criticism) that have surrounded them during their rise to indie notoriety. They’re not disaffected so much as they are unencumbered — they’re doing this because they felt like it and the dry, acerbic weightlessness borne of not caring drips off their music like honey. They don’t read the (metaphorical) comments, and this might just make them some of the only truly aspirational figures we have left.