CD Review of Hideaway by The Weepies
Recommended if you like
Over the Rhine, The Innocence Mission, Eastmountainsouth
Label
Nettwerk
The Weepies: Hideaway

Reviewed by Jeff Giles

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ince releasing their 2006 Nettwerk debut, Say I Am You, the Weepies – also known as Steve Tannen and Deb Talan – have become iTunes sensations, had their songs featured on television shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl,” had a baby, and found themselves drafted to co-write the bulk of Mandy Moore’s coming-out party as a singer/songwriter, last year’s Wild Hope. Not bad for an act that started out touring in a compact car – but how would all that attention affect the duo’s gently plaintive pop/folk sound?

As it turns out, the Weepies haven’t changed much at all – Hideaway acts as a pleasantly gloomy 14-track extension of Say I Am You and its predecessor, the independently released Happiness. They might be darlings of the indie pop circuit, but Tannen and Talan are also very, very tired – and that weariness anchors these songs, adding a touch of cobalt to their pillowy, sun-streaked harmonies. As with previous outings, it’s this underlining pathos that keeps the Weepies’ weakness for sentimentality from suffocating. Lyrically, they might read like Dashboard Confessional – this is the pair that kicked off a track from their last album with “I woke up / And wished that I was dead” – but by stripping all the rough edges from their sorrow, they emphasize the comfort therein. Heartbreak and disappointment are frequently used as weapons in modern pop music; Talan and Tannen know they can also be sources of warmth.

As you may have guessed, the Weepies are far from eclectic; they spin a sticky web of melancholy chords and downcast melodies, never straying far from the soft middle of their sound. What they lack in variety, they more than make up for in their ability to build a mood – but that limited bag of sonic tricks leaves them almost wholly reliant on the strength of their material, and these songs, although certainly solid, don’t scale the heights Talan and Tannen reached with the addictive Say I Am You.

This isn’t for want of material – some of Hideaway’s tracks have been in the Weepies’ songbook for years – and it isn’t due to a lack of hooks, either. What exactly is missing from these songs is difficult to pinpoint, honestly; it’s primarily a question of tone and feel. They refer to this as “a darker companion to their last album,” but it isn’t darker, really – it’s grayer. Say I Am You, for all its glumness, held a spark; these songs just feel washed out and gloomy. They’re still beautiful, but they don’t resonate as deeply. When Talan sings “I’m just blue” (in “Just Blue, natch), it might be the most universal sentiment the Weepies ever express – but also one of the least interesting.

Still, even if Hideaway doesn’t present the Weepies’ best work, the dropoff ultimately affects the album less than you might think – their music occupies such a narrow slice of bandwidth that the distance between “great” and “so-so” isn’t all that far. Fans of the duo, and folks looking to expand their rainy day playlist, can pick up copies of this album without fear. Listeners who prefer a little bone and gristle in their musical intake need not apply – but then, that’s always been the case where the Weepies are concerned.

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