Courtesy of Nettwerk Music Group
The Weepies – “Hideaway”
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There’s nothing like simple songmanship. No fancy electronic effects. No overly poetic lyrics reaching for — and falling short of — deep meaning. No pretentious 10-minute guitar solos. Just a melody, a touch of male-female harmony, a chorus, a couple of verses and a bridge. Songwriting done with a philosophy of simplicity.
That’s just how the Cambridge, Mass., indie-pop-folk duo, The Weepies, does it. Their songs are careful, simple arrangements, built around the beautiful harmony of married band members Deb Talan and Steve Tannen. The songs are usually quiet, languid and unassuming, but surprisingly catchy.
The Weepies newest album, Hideaway, just hit stores on Tuesday. The self-produced record is more of the same slow, beautiful folk music that earned the band’s songs airtime on popular TV shows known for their background music like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Gossip Girls” and “Scrubs.”
It’s hard to say what makes The Weepies’ simple formula work so well. Maybe it’s the way the lyrics speak so clearly to universal experiences. Take the paralyzing love found in “Gotta Have You” for example, on which Talan sings mournfully, crooning, “No amount of coffee, no amount of crying, no amount of whiskey, no amount of wine / No no no, nothing else will do / Gotta have you / I gotta have you.”
Or maybe it’s simply because The Weepies are phenomenal instrumentalists. Every note comes out crisp and clear, and most songs feature intricate picking arrangements. These folksters aren’t just amateurs who’ve learned a couple of chords and bought a copy of Garage Band. They’re serious musicians with an ear for their craft.
Vocally, The Weepies are completely unmistakable, too. Both Talan and Tannen have their own signature sound. Talan’s voice is a low alto, but in spite of its pitch there’s a strange childlike feeling to it. It’s nasal, but not annoyingly so. She slurs some of her words so that every verse seems to sort of roll along, like a lazy river on a summer’s day.
Tannen, on the other hand, is a clear tenor who sings crisply and sharply, pronouncing every consonant. Together they blend in beautiful harmony, Tannen usually — but not always — taking a backseat to Talan.
I could keep breaking The Weepies down, go into how they layer various levels of of instrumentation, weaving together a seamless yet intricate quilt of sound. Ultimately though, all this analysis is missing the point entirely, because what makes The Weepies so great is that they don’t need to be analyzed to be enjoyed. Their simplicity makes them easy to pick up after just a few listens. Even if you aren’t paying attention when you first hear them, you’ll find their melodies rolling around in your head for days afterwards quietly popping up when you least expect them.
–By Senior Staff Writer Andrew Swerlick