“Sirens” by The Weepies (No. 71)
The sirens, in Greek myth, were “beautiful yet dangerous creatures” that would lure sailors to the rocks with their music and voices. The Weepies, as far as I know, have no habit of luring sailors to the rocks with their music – but Sirens could certainly do the trick, were they so inclined.
The Weepies are the second husband/wife duo on my top 100 list (Whitehorse being the other), though their style is more towards the indie/folk side of the house. There’s also a strong pop element to their music, and if you listen hard enough you can hear subtle hints of 70s bands like The Carpenters in many of their songs. Deb Talen and Steve Tannen have their own sound, though, and while you’ll catch plenty of influences, they’re never derivative or repetitive.
To be honest, I’m not sure how and when The Weepies popped up on my radar. Most likely it was thanks to Scrubs, as a few Weepies tunes were featured in episodes of Scrubs, or maybe it was just in trolling Rdio and other streaming services for music that was similar to Imogen Heap, The Shins, and so forth. At any rate, I jumped on Sirens as soon as it was released because I was hungry for more.
Sirens is The Weepies’ most recent album, released just last year (2015). It has plenty of songs that will be instantly familiar to Weepies fans, as well as a few cuts that expand their repertoire. “Fancy things,” and “Early Morning Riser,” for example break the pop/folk mode significantly. “Fancy Things” begins with a mechanical drumbeat and Talen’s voice sounds like it’s being played back through a old timey record player or over a weak radio signal for the first bit of the song, before the rest of the band kicks in and the song gets into full gear. “Early Morning Riser” has an upbeat, jazzy horn thing going on and is almost over the top peppy.
“River from the Sky,” the album opener, is a pretty and haunting acoustic number with Talen and Tannen harmonizing quietly over the instruments. It’s got an ethereal, lazy feel.
After just a few listens, I had trouble (ahem) getting “No Trouble” out of my head. “Don’t need no trouble / but sometimes trouble needs me” is the repeated refrain. There’s a lot of layers to this one, and I really love the drum bits here.
“Sirens,” the title track, is firmly in Weepies’ familiar territory. Talen’s voice is a little breathy and dreamy in this one, over acoustic guitar, strings, and some understated piano. Tannen echoes Talen quietly, almost imperceptibly, on some of the choruses. It’s just a beautiful song.
It took more than a few plays before I recognized “Learning to Fly” as the Tom Petty classic. That’s not to say it’s not covered well, but The Weepies make it their own here. Talen takes lead vocals, and her approach is (naturally) quite different than the eternally nasal Petty. Where The Heartbreakers deliver “Learning to Fly” in the mid-tempo classic rock tradition, The Weepies deliver a gentler, guitar and piano take.
“Wild Boy” is more familiar Weepies fare, prominently featuring Talen’s voice and acoustic guitar. “Ever Said Goodbye,” is the same, but putting Tannen at the forefront.
If you’re a fan of “Made for Sunny Days,” you might be tempted to skip ahead to “Brand New Pair of Wings.” It’s unrelentingly optimistic and happy. Carried by Talen’s singing, it has backing track but it’s just a bonus. This one has knocked me out of a foul mood more than once, and it’ll likely to the same for you if you’re inclined to let it.
The stripped-down “My Little Love,” also puts Talen front and center, with some harmonizing with Tannen and sparse acoustic guitar. It’s a charming little song, but you could say that about so many of The Weepies’ songs…
The final track is another cover, “Volunteers” originally by Mark Geary. Tannen takes lead vocals over acoustic guitar and some gentle, glacial electric guitar that calls to mind some Joshua Tree-era U2 for some reason.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s not a wasted track on Sirens. It shows some amazing musical growth for the band, without shedding the magic of their first four albums. Even though I’ve only had the album for a year or so, I’ve played it dozens of times already and it’s lost none of its shine.