You Tell Me is an inspired collaboration between Peter Brewis (one half of Field Music) and Sarah Hayes (solo artist and member of Admiral Fallow). The pair met in 2017 when appearing in an Emma Pollock-curated celebration of the music of Kate Bush. Hayes and Brewis soon struck up a friendship, discovering some shared musical tastes, and so the seeds of a new band were sown. The result of their collaboration is the eponymous debut album, You Tell Me, which draws on a wide range of influences to create a collection of absorbing, inventive and original songs. Brewis and Hayes are both multi-instrumentalists with reputations for compositional flair and together they have crafted a series of stunning, multi-layered and richly textured songs, deploying a string quartet to provide additional light and shade in some of the arrangements. The songs feature poetic and intriguing lyrics, combined with dazzling instrumental hooks and riffs. Hayes and Brewis share the lead vocals across the album and their harmonies are a match made in heaven.
The album gets off to a flier with the exuberant electro-pop of Enough To Notice, featuring breezy strings and a towering chorus (“…That dizzy feeling, staring up at the pines, a blizzard through the windscreen at night.”). Choppy acoustic guitar riffs usher in the deliciously edgy Get Out Of The Room, its slightly unsettling nature accentuated by some delicious guitar licks and Hammond organ breaks. The gorgeous Foreign Parts is notable for resonant piano chords and dramatic strings and its unusual time signatures give it a bit of a Rufus Wainwright feel. The swaggering Water Cooler (perhaps the song closest in style to Field Music) appears to reference an unrequited office crush and is full of driving rhythms, punctuated by jabbing synths and trilling casiotone runs. By contrast, the elegant and unhurried Springburn soothes the soul with its combination of lilting piano, pure and clear vocals and delicate shades of strings and flute. Following a bossa nova guitar intro, the poignant No Hurry unfolds with glossy slide guitar and rolling piano, its feathery vocals and measured pace slightly reminiscent of classic Robert Wyatt.
With its exhilarating piano runs, shimmering guitar, a chorus and middle eight, which Kate Bush would be proud of and a soaring choral effect to the fade, Clarion Call is nothing short of majestic. Sarah Hayes reproduces the contemporary chamber-folk brilliance of her 2015 solo album Woven with the achingly beautiful Jouska, a graceful piano-led ballad featuring soaring strings and a hymn-like chorus (“…I replied a beat too late, cartoon speech bubble, a grand pause, three silent dots like vitamins on my tongue.”). Repetitive and jazzy piano runs, clicking percussion, intermittent slide guitar fills and flamenco hand claps give Invisible Ink a pleasingly syncopated vibe. With its crisp vocals, insistent piano chords, gliding strings and subtle use of field recordings, Starting Point nods gently towards late-period Beatles. Accompanied by glistening strings, Hayes produces another moving vocal on the quietly affecting Kabuki, which closes the album.
You Tell Me is a debut album of true excellence, which deserves to be an early contender for inclusion in many ‘Albums of the Year’ lists.
You Tell Me is available now, via Memphis Industries.