On their mesmerizing and emotional third album, ‘Marriage’, Malmö dream-pop duo Wy reveal how weakness is a strength to make their union work.
When Ebba and Michel Gustafsson Ågren announced their arrival nearly five years ago, their moniker Wy symbolized the married couple’s music. The name is minimalist, yet it, like the word from which it is derived, provokes curiosity, contemplation, and wonder. It also forces one to seek answers to questions for which we do avoid to understand, including the emotions that swell inside us, the statements we make, and the actions we commit. The word is simple but undeniably provocative, which the Ågrens similarly displayed on their 2017 stunning debut album, Okay, and 2019’s follow-up Softie. The records were beautifully brittle compilations, as the band used ’90s sadcore as the canvas to deeply explore Ebba’s vulnerable psyche.
Their third album, Marriage, is likewise an emotional roller-coaster, yet breathtaking and cinematic as opposed to exhilarating and anthemic. It is the duo at their most intimate and engaging, as they examine life together and how they must be honest and vulnerable for them to strive together and survive in today’s manipulative world. How weakness is a strength to make their union work.
The melancholic breath-taker, “Come Here”, sets the tone for an album that could be the soundtrack for a contemporary love story. As Michel’s guitar plucks a weeping melody, Ebba’s stirring voice occasionally breaks. She reveals her fear that her troubles – battle with alcoholism, being unemployed, and the depression that lingers deep inside her – could lead to the dissolution of her and Michel’s marriage. That she could be the cause of everything crashing down on them.
“‘Of what?’ you ask, and I say
It’s such a long time since I cried
I’m scared of talking
I just want to be right
My brain is fried
I can smell it burning
And I ask you as nice as I can
To put it out”
Ebba further dives into her insecurities on the mesmerizing, dream-pop number, “Shiba Inu” and the gritty allure of “Braid”. A stuttering percussion guides the former, on which Ebba describes how she keeps her thoughts to herself and instead chooses to listen to everyone speak about themselves. With a hint of callous disdain in her voice, Ebba sings, “They find me when they need me / But they don’t care about me.” The latter, meanwhile, is steeped in memory, providing a hint of when Ebba’s insecurities began. Even as a child when she excelled in school, her depression left the lasting mark. “Tie me a braid / Help dig my grave”, she recalls without a semblance of fear in her voice. It is as if she has come to accept her fate.
That is until she opened a “Window” into her world to Michel. The sparse almost minimalist, synth-driven arrangement allows the track’s emotion to naturally develop. Nothing is forced, which is the sign of a band confident in their ability to elicit a response no matter how widescreen or subdued the melody may be. Ebba’s falsetto and introspective lyrics magnify the song’s poignancy. As her voice moves from brittle to desperate, she reveals the inner turmoil that eats away at her.
“I’m only reasoning
When I feel fulfilled
I could be missing anything
If I know myself right
So what am I missing this time?”
Ebba continues to self-analyze why her inner demons continue to torment her on the engrossing “That Picture of Me”. The song’s early moments are fairly sparse with just a bit of slightly-distorted guitar and a very coarse sounding drum machine. This brings Ebba’s raw lyricism into clear focus. She describes seeing herself in someone else’s picture, as if someone is living her life and her friends have cast her aside. Her anguish has peaked until she finds love in Michel, which she depicts on the delicate head-bopper “Miserable Artist”. As Michel strums his guitar in the background, Ebba gradually begins to see things in a positive light.
Her mind further blossoms on the bouncy, “A Walk Outside”. With an unexpected beam in her voice, Ebba sings to her walking partner, “It’s never boring / You could never ever bore me / Like I bore myself / Like everyone else”. Their relationship than turns into a “Dream House”. Filled with bright hooks reminiscent of Everything But The Girl, Ebba’s trademark dreamy yet yearning vocal emphatically sings, “Oh, I think we’re in love”. This is love at first sight, and Wy at their most melancholic hopeful:
“Next year we might swim in the sea
Or visit that house from my dream
Without this big sadness in me”
On “Marriage”, the duo are at their most intimate and romantic. A short and sweet lo-fi number, the song is the morning after the vows have been said. It’s pure bliss. The days to follow, however, are turbulent and filled with days of joy and grief, desire and pain. The raw intensity of “God’s Lamb” reveals these topsy-turvy weeks, months, and years to follow. As Ebba finds herself spiraling out of control once more, this time she has someone to lean on. She has someone that she can call and ask him to “Come get me”. That despite all her insecurities, she has a rock on to which she can hold. A person who she can live with to the end of her days.
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