Written by Joel Funk
I feel like everybody remembers the first time they heard an artist. You’re paying some of the closest attention to the music that you ever will, all in the name of determining whether or not this is an artist that you want to come back to. Some of those circumstances are more organic than others, and sometimes you fall into a listening experience by accident. The latter is how I first heard Allison Weiss. See, I used to really love designing themes for Tumblr and there are a set of default posts that are used when you’re testing the coding for your theme. The default audio post is an older Allison Weiss song called “Fingers Crossed.”
I liked the song, and I didn’t mind listening to it when I was working on themes, but it wasn’t anything that I saw myself coming back to. I took a more extensive re-visit to her catalog when Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years was advocating for her music. I took note of the fact that she was certainly moving toward a more pop-focused sound. And again, I liked what I heard. It wasn’t until her signing to No Sleep Records that I began to pay any real attention to the music she was making. ‘Say What You Mean’ was a great introduction to Weiss for anybody that was looking to listen without having to dig through a slew of EPs that saw Weiss discovering her sound. It was a cohesive indie-pop record that really put the spotlight on her endearingly androgynous vocals and lyrical storytelling.
She has since signed to SideOneDummy Records and has decided to take a more straightforward approach to writing pop songs. No need to throw an additional label to the genre. The people have finally admitted that pop is no longer something you need to feel shame for liking and wanting to be a part of, and Weiss’ newest work is the perfect example of this. Artistically speaking, she has sacrificed nothing to get to the sound displayed on ‘New Love.’ If anything, this is the end result of a long-awaited metamorphosis. The Allison Weiss I first heard through Tumblr was just a caterpillar waiting for the right moment to emerge as the popstar she was destined to be. When listening to ‘New Love,’ it’s hard to not imagine Weiss pulling a Fall Out Boy and transcending the scene completely.
Every song feels like a triumph. There are moments that feel similar to those made on ‘Say What You Mean,’ but this time around they’re paired with these flourishing synths that sound like they were ripped right out of the 80’s. ‘New Love’ is cohesive in the fact that Weiss is no longer shying away from the things that make pop music so much fun. You know, things like music that you can’t help but dance to or those hooks that are so simplistic and repetitive that you can’t help but love them.
One of the best examples of this comes pretty early on with “Who We Are.” The song was released as a single, and I will be shocked if it doesn’t do well. The first few seconds of the song sound like the spacious kind of indie-pop that has infected the mainstream, but sheds any hint of that indie feeling when Weiss starts to sing. The song comes to full pop transformation once the chorus is kicked off. “Let’s go find out who we are” is the line that changes everything. Everything starts to swell around this mantra, and affirms that the song itself is bound to become a self-love and acceptance anthem much in the same vein Kesha’s “We R Who We R” without all of the glitter and grease we’ve come to associate with that part of Kesha’s career.
The most 80’s song to not actually come from the decade has to be “Back To Me.” I mean, just listen to the first thirty seconds of it. Some super crunchy sounding synth-work is layered under lyrical gems like “Another day inside, double checking that you’re still gone” and “Now I’m crying in the car to a top 40 pop song.” I don’t mean to sound dismissive or sarcastic when I call them gems, I sincerely mean it. They’re cheesy as all hell, but they work. All of this happens before the synths explode and Weiss’ vocals soar while she sings “My baby’s coming back to me” on a loop. On paper, it sounds like it would get old, but it doesn’t. Trust me.
Even with all of the polish of a pop record, Weiss has still managed to sneak in a more rock than pop, pop rock song in the vein of Gin Blossoms or The Wallflowers. The riff is huge and driving, but maintains the energy and momentum of what has been solidified as a very pop record. The chorus is easily my favorite on the record: “I’ve got a plan to get you out of my head/I’m gonna ride my motorbike all summer long.” Excuse my lack of adjectives, but the song just feels very American. In the same way that I associate songs like “One Headlight” and “Hey Jealousy” with early-July celebratory stages of Summer. Beer and cookouts, driving with the windows down and your hands and hair being blown back by the breeze. The sound, and the lyrics all work together to create a song that just sounds, for lack of a better word, free. My only gripe is that she says motorbike and not motorcycle, but that’s just because I would have loved a Brian Sella feature that tied ‘New Love’ to ‘Back on Top.’ Tit for tat, feature for feature.
‘New Love’ is without question the best Allison Weiss album to date. She’s no longer afraid to be a straight-forward pop artist and it has paid off in spades. The songs feel confident and full of life. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with fully embracing the idea of finally reaching a goal that you’ve been creeping toward. I’m going to be floored if ‘New Love’ doesn’t catapult Allison Weiss to the same level as Tegan & Sara, at least.
You can purchase a copy of ‘New Love’ here.