The Weepies, Sirens (2015)

This is not the way I thought it would be
Sirens (2015), the first full-length album by The Weepies in five years, released after Deb Talan, half the folk duo group successfully completed treatment for cancer, weaves a lovely fabric of quiet wistfulness, a palpable desire to make sense of life in a world that is not as it was meant to be.

I don’t need no trouble
But sometimes trouble needs me
I don’t need no trouble
But it’s plain to see
Sometimes trouble needs me

[“No Trouble”]

This is not the sound of artists raging against the unrelenting brokenness that haunts our steps, nor is there any hint of bitterness against the way hard times are distributed so unfairly. Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are musicians who love one another and find in their relationship a hint of hope that makes even the sadness bearable.

When the sky is grey
Hope just hides away
I’ll be your sunflower
When you can’t stand up
Even love is not enough
I’ll be your sunflower…
A little smile but your mouth is tight
Gentle pedals crowd around your eyes
I wanna be the company you keep


“Referencing both the doppler ambulance wails and the mermaid-like mythical creatures that lead sailors to shipwreck with its title,” Paste notes, “Sirens is not thematically a ‘cancer album.’ Rather, it’s an album that happened to be made while battling and recovering from the disease.” And rather than focus on just that struggle, Talan and Tannen use it as a chance to see more widely and reflect more deeply on the human condition we all share. They sing of regret over broken relationships (“Ever Said Goodbye”), gender dysphoria (“Boys Who Want to be Girls”), friends lost over time (“River From the Sky”), and the risk taken to love someone (“Fancy Things”).

I hear their voices, sirens singing in the street
I thought they might be calling out for you, for me
I hear their voices, sirens calling out emergency
For you, for me, for you, for you, for you
For you, for you, for you, for me


Musically Sirens is deeply compelling, and appropriately was recorded in Talan and Tannen’s Iowa home. The couple is joined by a wonderful group of musicians as backup—many of them unable to travel to Iowa and so recording tracks wherever they happened to be at the moment, including Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello), Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters), Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel), Oliver Kraus (Sia) and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam).

This is not the way I thought it would be
Thought it would be much lighter
This is not the way I thought it would be
Thought it would be much brighter

[“Does Not Bear Repeating”]

Unless we’ve become numb to reality that is exactly right. With Sirens, The Weepies help us renew our deeply needed, human yearning for hope.


Music recommended: Sirens (2015) by The Weepies.
Review for Paste by Hilary Saunders online (