Sunday, April 5, 2009

Review: Maria Taylor - LadyLuck (* * * 1/2)

Though she's only just approaching her 33rd birthday, Maria Taylor has had the kind of music career than could fill almost a lifetime. With dream-pop group Azure Ray and other projects, Taylor has shown herself to possess both real talent and broad appeal, and with her third solo album, LadyLuck, she continues to add to her already impressive catalog with a set of ten melodic pop-folk tunes. The new record might not be considered by some to be as consistently great as her best work, but the music is certainly enjoyable and a good representation of Taylor's skill as a singer and songwriter.

The first single, "Time Lapse Lifeline," immediately hooked me when I heard it a couple months ago. Taylor's lovely, signature vocal delivery coupled with the tension from the churning drums and swirling strings makes for a beautiful, emotionally powerful song that set the bar high for the remaining tracks. Though not all of the music reaches that standard, there are some fantastic highlights here, especially on the latter half of the disc. "A Chance" is a groovy number, with faint disco guitars and a slinky bass line that transitions into a more lonely, regretful chorus, while "Orchids" rolls along heartbreakingly on simple finger-picked acoustic guitar before the drums and keys slide in behind Taylor's lovely vocals - in harmony with collaborator Andy LeMaster. The best of the best is the alt-country closer, "Cartoons and Forever Plans," an absolutely stellar love song featuring the great Michael Stipe on backing vocals.

The first half of the album floats by almost too smoothly, but songs like the opening title track and "100,000" are quite good, they just feel a little smothered in production. Fortunately, Taylor keeps her lyricism generally sharp and full of life even when the music may not be quite as gripping. Her narratives about love and relationships have a sad tinge to them, but the overall feeling of LadyLuck is refreshingly hopeful, and her effortlessly gorgeous voice gives an added measure of meaning to each and every tune.

LadyLuck is the kind of album that explores emotion and thought rather than seeking to push musical boundaries, and it succeeds in that regard. Maria Taylor has made a record that serves perfectly as the soundtrack to the end of a long day or even of a relationship, an emotional and honest collection of introspective, yet very relatable, songs. To hear some of the album, head over to her MySpace page or check out my previous post to download "Time Lapse Lifeline."