If you’ve even had cursory exposure to the husband and wife songwriting team known as The Weepies, then you know full well how effortless it can be to cozy up with their gently affecting ruminations on the joys and agonies of love. Have you seen the video for “Can’t Go Back Now,” off of 2008’s Hideaway? A gorgeous acoustic-driven gem about facing the disappointments of adulthood head on and letting go of past mistakes, the disarmingly sincere message of the song is trumped only by the muppets (created in the image and likeness of head Weepies Steve Tannen and Deb Talan) who hold hands while standing in Times Square and kiss in front of a makeshift Hollywood sign that now reads “The Weepies”.
Those who take their coffee black (and without any sweetener, of course) would do well to allow The Weepies into their iTunes library; their homespun tunes about human loss and longing can be uncomfortably earnest at times, but the approach is often executed with such charming subtlety that the passion never becomes saccharine. You can hardly blame the duo for their positivity and aw-shucks sentimentality after all; when two disparate songwriters meet at a chance gig, form a band, get married, have a child, and release four well-received albums of intimate acoustic pop along the way, it’s clear there’s a singular sort of chemistry at work that’s worth celebrating.
The party – albeit a mellow one – continues on Be My Thrill, a briskly paced set of demure folk-pop that finds The Weepies bringing plenty of their trademark gravitas to the fore without ever becoming maudlin. Set in a lilting 12/8 groove and supported by the pitter-patter of snapping and tambourines, “Please Speak Well of Me” opens the album with pleas to an ex-lover and sage advice such as, “To never regret means you have to forget.” Talan’s lead vocals have just a touch of sweet smokiness to them that blend brilliantly with Tannen’s harmonizations and the airy instrumental arrangement. The record ebbs and flows from here with balanced musings on both the thrilling rush of love and the heartache of rejection. “When You Go Away” and “Red Red Rose” work in tandem with one another, as the former’s moderate rock tempo and pleading requests not to be left behind give way to the sullen realizations (“I’m not yours / you’re not mine / hope you find love in time”) and murky keyboard textures of the latter.
“I Was Made For Sunny Days” brings pop star Colbie Caillat onboard, her vocals seamlessly fusing with Talan’s for a shimmering little pop ditty about great weather, happy couples, and how each one is complimented by the presence of the other. The track is among the most buoyant and unabashedly elated songs to be found on the LP; it’s not a raucous affair by any means, but in Weepieland, the ecstasy remains palpable.
The album’s second half boasts the LP’s most varied material. “Add My Effort” is one the duo’s most affecting compositions, where falsetto vocals and a dash of reverb lend the tune a pastoral bent. A genuinely sweet pledge to stick it out with someone during the darkest of times, the song’s lyrics (“I’m gonna add my effort to you / try and love you”) should resonate with anyone who has ever been tested by the speed bumps of a romantic relationship. The title track arrives just in time to break up the storm clouds; its uptempo pulse matched by jangly guitar countermelodies and hastily delivered vocals (“Everybody needs someone to adore / I’m counting on you / baby say you will / baby be my thrill”). Be My Thrill’s finest moment though, is “Hard to Please,” the only time The Weepies eclipse the four-minute mark. A mixture of handclaps, ethereal vocals and siren-like atmospherics, the song’s greater length allows for the type of exposition and development only hinted at on other tracks. The album ends on a note of unexpected political discourse with “Empty Your Hands,” which juxtaposes imagery of genocide with that of Talan and Tannen’s toddler learning how to run in a grassy field.
Be My Thrill is hardly renegade territory for The Weepies, but anyone looking for a folk act that balances deft musicianship with genuinely sweet candor is in for a treat; there is simply no finer choice in 2010.