#7 – ALLISON WEISS – REMEMBER WHEN [spotify]

(feat. track – “Remember When” [spotify])

Allison Weiss’ 2013 LP Say What You Mean made my “Best of the Rest” list last year; in fact, it was one of the last albums cut from my longlist as I narrowed it down. The songs were certainly strong enough to crack through, and Weiss is as dynamic a performer – both on record and live –as they come, but production that sanded down the points it should have sharpened made for the album’s ultimate undoing.

Remember When, a five song EP released by Weiss this year, has no such issues; indeed, the production choices here (by bandmate and partner Joanna Katcher, who deserves to be recognized by name for her stellar work) are spectacular, across the board. The title track breezes by on galloping drums and rich, warm guitar tones with just the right touch of fuzzy delay; the spare, fingerpicked solo electric guitar and layered harmonies on Weiss’ gut-wrenching reinterpretation of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” compliment the fragility in her voice and the emotional ambivalence of the lyrics with precision. Even the simple reverb-heavy, demo-quality recording of closing acoustic blues strummer “Take You Back” works, because the arrangement and style suit the song so well. Weiss’ songwriting is so strong that all that’s really called for is production unobtrusive enough to let her talent shine through; here though, the production actually lifts the material.

Of course, even produced as well as it is, Remember When wouldn’t rank if it wasn’t for the quality of the songs, and this is Weiss’ most consistently strong batch to date. Yes, it’s only five tracks (with one being a cover to boot), but all five place among Weiss’ finest. Weiss has a very distinctive way of addressing the standard tropes of love and loss, a certain empathy that’s hard to describe outside of the effect that it has on you, a magnetism that pulls you into the songs characters (if they are even characters) and gets you inside their heads, as though you were experiencing the longing, the resignation, the trepidation right along with them. Sure, that’s what lots of songwriters aim to do; Weiss just happens to be one of the few who gets it consistently right.

Indeed, “consistently right” pretty much sums up Remember When in one pithy phrase. Remember When is an understated but fully realized joy of a record.