You Tell Me is the new project of Field Music‘s Peter Brewis and Admiral Fallow‘s Sarah Hayes. Their self-titled solo album has grown out of a meeting at a Kate Bush celebration concert and the discovery of a shared love of music as diverse as Tortoise and Rufus Wainwright. On paper, this sounds like an album that has the potential to really be a brilliant album…
Both artists have an impressive track record – Sarah is additionally established as a contemporary folk artist- and this is very much an equal collaboration. When their voices come together it’s gorgeous, and they really meld together well. However, whilst there’s a lot going on here on this album that demonstrates their considerable individual talents, it’s possibly a bit too clever for its own good, with the result that several tracks just leave the listener feeling really rather overwhelmed.
The album really does not get off to a good start. Opener ‘Enough To Notice‘ sounds a bit sickly sweet, and the idea of ‘Water Cooler‘ – that of an inept office romance- is interesting enough as a concept, but the reality is that there is so much going on that it’s really rather distracting. ‘Clarion Call‘ aims to sound like Fairport Convention (an aim that no artist should ever be criticised for, admittedly) but doesn’t quite get there.
On the other hand, ‘Springburn‘ is a success because it’s shorn of too much cleverness, and the end result is absolutely lovely, pretty much as stripped down as this album gets. Album closer ‘Kabuki‘ manages to combine the duo’s experimental tendencies and to produce something as equally gorgeous.
There’s a lot going on here, rather too much to deal with (thankfully, it’s not a long album). Perhaps three or four tracks would hang together well to make up a pretty decent EP. Instead of which, we are presented with a series of ideas that obscure the songs underneath. Yes, it’s well produced, but that really isn’t enough to make a decent album. Frustratingly, even repeated plays do not start to illuminate the album, as if to make it something worth persevering with, but instead, leave it as something that listened to as a whole make it more of an endurance test.
There’s no doubt that Messrs Brewis and Hayes are talented songwriters with a desire to experiment. But on the evidence here, at the risk of sounding harsh, the tendency is to say ‘don’t give up the day jobs.’ Alternatively, develop the ideas more carefully next time.
You Tell Me is released on Memphis Industries on January 11.