There are many tools in a singer-songwriter’s arsenal that help to create enduring albums, however, I remain certain that the epitome of these tools is the ability to take the simple and make it profound. Allison Weiss has this ability and her latest effort Say What You Mean does exactly what its title implies. Weiss and company offer up a no-gimmick album that is wrought with sincerity and illustrates Weiss’ uncanny ability to mix bouncy pop sensibilities, borderline misanthropy, and lovesick anthems that everybody can identify with.
The album begins with the recently popular “Making it Up,” whose companion 7” preceded Say What You Mean and rightfully garnered a fair share of hype. The song features Weiss’ airy guitar melodies, the group’s perfectly executed vocal harmonies and a carnival-esque synth that complements the band’s bouncy brand of power-pop.
With her D.I.Y. cred already well established, it’s no surprise that Weiss incorporates punk rock tendencies into her songs. Songs like “I Was an Island” and “Don’t Go” feature dissonant guitars and an incredibly strong backbone in Keith Sidorowicz’s drumming, but Weiss balances this musical fury with her tender voice that drips of pure passion and underscores the heartrending lyrics with a glimmer of hope. Lyrics like “I know it’s not healthy / but I’m kind of getting used to being sick / they don’t make cures for this” hit home precisely because of Weiss’ stunning voice that seems to offer sympathy to anybody who’s been ravaged by sadness.
Never one to shy away from the simplicity and sincerity associated with acoustic songs, Weiss sprinkles a few acoustic gems in the midst of an album dominated by indie rock jams featuring an electronic flair. The heartfelt “Wait for Me” pairs up Weiss and her guitar with a string section that is reminiscent of Pentimento’s “Subtle Words,” sans lap steel and distorted guitars. However the real treat of the album, trumping both acoustic and electric songs alike, is the album’s closing song “I’ll Be Okay,” in which she once again uses her moving singing voice, but interspersed with lines “sung” in her normal speaking voice that accentuate the realness of her words. She sings “And I am not sober / and I am not well / I thought you could tell. / You never could tell” in one of many lines that pulls at the listener’s heartstrings, demanding that her audience feel her pain. But, characteristic to the entire album, Weiss strives to find the silver lining, ending the song and album with the repeated line “I’ll be okay” that seems to come as naturally as breathing.
The album also features songs such as “One Way Love” and “Hole in Your Heart” that seem poised to find their way into many-a car radio this summer as Spring slowly creeps up and one is inclined to roll the windows down and jam out. Both of these songs are full of hooks and have a distinctly upbeat nature that will get the most reluctant music-lovers tapping their feet.
To categorize Say What You Mean as a solid album is to put it mildly. Allison Weiss has perfected her craft on this album and the secret won’t be safe for long. New fans are sure to flock to this release as the beginning of a newfound infatuation with a pizza-loving girl from Brooklyn who sings songs about her feelings in the most down-to-earth way