“Seven years separated Tim Finn's fourth album, 1993's Before & After, and his fifth, Say It Is So, by which time he was left without a label…Finn went to Nashville in late 1998 to record with producer and multi-instrumentalist Jay Joyce, lacking any clear idea where or when the record would be released. He eventually put it out himself, through Sonny's Pop Records, and it certainly sounds like his first full-fledged independent release” (Erlewine). It is “a record bristling with indie spirit and musical playfulness” (McMulley) and, “for the first time, Finn sounds entirely unconscious of the charts” (Erlewine).
“Say It Is So underscores a perpetually restless creativity that's carried the New Zealander from the New Wave powerhouse Split Enz through Crowded House and other partnerships with younger brother Neil, to ALT (his earthy collaboration with Hothouse Flowers) to a handful of diverse solo efforts” (McCulley).
“Tim recorded this album with “Nashville producer-guitarist Jay Joyce (Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, the Wallflowers)” (McCulley) “and Wilco drummer Ken Coomer…the resulting album sounds like it was made it Nashville by way of New Zealand” (half.ebay.com). Say It Is So “shows signs of Nashville without sacrificing Tim Finn's graceful, conversational singing style to the cry-in-your-beer twang of country music” (half.ebay.com).
The “production…is fairly stripped down, yet also atmospheric, with its blend of dry guitars, old keyboards, muted drums, and the occasional distorted meaning – an apt match for Finn's most shaded lyrics to date. All of these sonic textures and elliptical, yet vaguely rootsy songs are quite different from any of Finn's previous solo works” (Erlewine).
“His voice's new deep, gravelly texture may be disarming at first” (Erlewine), “often contrast[ing] starkly with the moody mix of muscular guitars, looped samples, and spare harmonies that frame them” (McCulley). Even so, “all the hallmarks of Tim Finn's style are in ample evidence on this warm, beckoning collection – lush acoustic guitars, provocatively off-kilter rhythms, and lyrics that can charm and cut with equal panache. For the most part, Finn seems in an upbeat, if languid, mood this time around” (Sprague).
“Although he hasn't concentrated on writing shiny pop songs” (Erlewine), “Finn's pop sensibility won't be denied” (McCulley). Tim “hasn't abandoned melody — it's just that this time, he writes melodies like singer/songwriters do, resulting in songs that take a little longer to take hold” (Erlewine). He continues to churn out the “‘adult pop’…that's precisely the specialty of the house at casa de Finn – and has been since the glory days of Split Enz” (Sprague). Tim “is not as sentimental in his songwriting as his younger brother Neil, [but] they're both gifted in creating clever, pretty pop songs that have won them fans worldwide” (half.ebay.com).
“Death of a Popular Song…is an ironic, poppy tune” (half.ebay.com). It “is as spot-on cynical as anything Finn has ever written, skewering hipster types with suggestions like ‘Let's start a ridiculous trend, you and I/Pretend we know what's going on.’ Whether you chuckle or turn red with embarrassment, it's guaranteed to strike a chord” (Sprague).
“The pedal-steel number Good Together” (McCulley) “is one of the more moving, cliché-free love songs you'll hear these days; although Finn's soul-baring never approaches Hallmark territory, his sentiment is hard to miss Song” (Sprague).
Underwater Mountain is a “straightforward…Enz-ish” (McCulley) song, “weaving tales of dreamy fantasy” (Sprague). “There’s also the “techno-adventurous” (McCulley) Roadtrip “and palpable emotion [of] the trip-hop-tinged Shiver” (Sprague)
“Say It Is So…emerges as one of Finn's finest efforts…it's some of the sturdiest, most consistent songwriting he's ever done on one record. Some listeners may miss the pop sheen or Finn's good humor — this is a relatively sober affair, unlike much of his catalog — but Say It Is So feels like one of his strongest and most personal records” (Erlewine).