Making music with one’s lover tends to have disastrous results, but such is not the case with the Weepies. The band has released its major label debut with layered and textured vocals, creating a polished, ethereal pop disc with wide-eyed child wonder. The husband and wife tandem, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen (known best as Talan and Tannen), met as a result of mutual appreciation for the other’s music, and wore themselves out promoting and touring for their last album, Say I Am You. Exhausted and depleted, the couple took time to recharge, letting all of the past year’s stressors of the road melt away. They wanted to reconnect with the music. During this time, they conceived Hideaway, as well as their son, Theo Samuel. So, while the two musicians were formulating and honing their music composition, little Theo was also developing. It makes sense, then, that this is their most introspective record yet.
The Weepies still have an upbeat pop sound, although their words come with a certain heaviness. The disc begins with “Can’t Go Back Now”, one of the few tracks sung by Tannen as lead. Layers of strings build while Tannen softly croons about not looking back at the past. Talan’s vocals start incorporating themselves into the mix, and the wall of sound becomes very dream-like. Throughout the disc, several guest musicians make appearances, along with the core band of Whynot Jansveld on bass and Frank Lenz on drums. The next few songs logically lead into one another, as Talan provides lead vocals with a youthful and sprightly tone. In “Orbiting”, ribbons of Talan’s voice harmonize on top, below, and through the main melody as she weaves an account of people growing apart from one another. The fade-in style of the introduction recalls Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”.
In “Little Bird”, the couple creates a diminutive soundspace with Talan’s vulnerable solo vocals and restrained instrumentation. The entire song has a dire mood, almost dirge-like. The minor chord harmonies and lyrical imagery create a cold, lonely feeling as Tannen’s dissonant vocal harmonies clash and meld with Talan’s delicate words. For instance, “Little bird, little bird / Brush your gray wings on my head,” sung in Talan’s lonely and resigned timbre echoes the stark nature of the song. The mood quickly shifts in the next track, “Antarctica”, as Talan’s narrator tells of getting away from everything to a land of only white and blue. The jaunty guitar and drumming against Talan’s soaring vocals create a sense of excitement of packing up and leaving for the unknown. The rosy arrangements eventually belie the sentiments of the lyrics, as the speaker relinquishes her hope that getting away from everything will solve problems; “Nothing’s so clear, now that I’m here.”
Yes, there is a Mandy Moore co-written song, “All Good Things”, another version of which appeared on Moore’s 2007 release (co-written by the Weepies) Wild Hope. And several of the Weepies’ songs appear in commercials and television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, but don’t hold this against them. Their commercial success has not watered down nor deadened their songwriting or recording. The decision to allow their music on certain programs was to pay costs for Theo and the family’s one-bedroom apartment. But don’t expect to hear their music on things like diamond commercials, for they do have standards. “My wife wears a diamond that was bought by my grandfather in 1911,” says Tannen. “We would never do that.”
// Notes from the Road
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