The music of You Tell Me exists in this glorious place where several decades of British pop gently collide. That is to be expected considering the pedigree of the two singer/songwriters at the helm of this project. Peter Brewis is one-half of the flint-edged post-punk group Field Music, and Sarah Hayes has logged time in the glittering indie pop outfit Admiral Fallow and dabbled in traditional folk as a solo artist. Add in the detail that the pair met for the first time at a Kate Bush concert and the sound of You Tell Me may start coming into focus even before you get a chance to listen to their self-titled debut.
The pair’s 11-song album weaves in and out of those varied sonic worlds with ease and wide-eyed joy, often grabbing little fragments into a lovely patchwork. Opener “Enough To Notice” layers the dreamy spirit of The Pentangle and their ‘70s psych-folk ilk with bubblegum pop, while “Water Cooler” and “Get Out Of The Room” imagines The Blue Nile’s sophisticated gleam meeting a hearty post-rock rumble.
The rest of You Tell Me rests in one style for a while, luxuriating in the stranger corners of a chosen genre. It could be summed up as art pop but that feels like a term that would warn people away from the album. The music does heave and pitch at odd intervals and angles, as with the woozy rhythms of “Invisible Ink” and the quick muleta sweeps of a string section that rush through “Foreign Parts,” yet Brewis and Hayes are mindful enough to keep their melodies and the sentiment of their lyrics instantly graspable.
There is a tendency within the running time of You Tell Me for the duo to maintain their cruising altitude for long stretches when they clearly have the abilities to hit the accelerator and soar. The languid pace that they lend to the majority of the songs here suits them just fine, but put up against the peppier numbers, you may long for a bit more variation. At the same time, You Tell Me concocts such a spell with their debut that the journey will still delight and intoxicate.