You Tell Me is a collaboration between Field Music's Peter Brewis and Admiral Fallow's Sarah Hayes that has all the chamber pop richness of the former's band, but adds a tenderness and simplicity that help make their debut album something Field Music-ish but different enough to stand on its own. Chalk much of that up to Hayes' agile vocals and introspective songwriting, but also give some credit for stretching a bit beyond his usual sound. Hayes' vocals and songs where she takes lead, like the orchestral ballad "Foreign Parts" or the pastoral "Springburn," conjure up Kirsty MacColl comparisons. Other tracks, like the complicated and pretty "Clarion Call," call to mind Sam Phillips or Aimee Mann. Like those songwriters, she's not content to just stick to tried-and-true subject matter or rote melodies, and in Brewis she's found the perfect partner to help bring her songs fully to life. The Brewis-led songs on the album hew fairly closely to the Field Music template, especially the perky "Water Cooler," but with a more relaxed feel and the added bonus of Hayes singing backgrounds and harmonies. The tracks like "No Hurry" and "Invisible Ink," where the duo mesh their styles seamlessly, are the most interesting on the album, and the moments where it truly sounds like a band instead of a couple of very talented musicians backing each other. Not that there's anything wrong with that kind of approach, especially when it yields the type of songs that fill the album. It will be interesting to see if You Tell Me is the start of something long-running or just a one-off. However it turns out, the album works as another assurance in favor of the ongoing genius of Peter Brewis, and as an impressive introduction to the lovely music of Sarah Hayes.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra