Release Date: Jun 10, 2016
Record label: Moshi Moshi Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
On his third proper solo album, Alexis Taylor puts aside all semblance of pop affectations in favor of something totally sparse and infinitely more vulnerable: a record composed entirely of piano and voice. Recorded at Hackney Road Studios, the aptly-named Piano is not only the most straightforward thing the usually cheeky Hot Chip frontman has ever released, it’s also the most surprisingly personal. Taylor has always had a knack for embedding wistfulness and bittersweet melancholia into pristinely rendered pop songs.
On top of the unmistakable, powerful, and eclectic dance floor groove of Hot Chip, sits the soulful melancholic voice of Alexis Taylor, who gives them their pop identity. He's an irrepressible creative force: there are the six albums he's crafted with Hot Chip, and the three he's put out with About Group. So far under his name he's released an EP, and the album, Await Barbarians.
Perhaps because he gets his dance pop jollies with his steady band Hot Chip and his avant rocks off with his side piece About Group, Alexis Taylor seems to aim for the austere when he releases music under his own name. 2014’s Await Barbarians was a charming but slight affair, built primarily from loops and the rhythms of vintage drum machines and filled almost entirely with ballads. Now for his second solo joint, Taylor scales things even further back.
Given how wonderfully dense and complex his best-known work with Hot Chip is, it is always surprising how relatively straightforward Alexis Taylor's work is when he goes it alone. Part of the pleasure of listening to his group is finding their hidden depths; it is therefore to Taylor's credit that this, his third and most pared back solo offering, does not jar. .
On release last year, RC argued that Hot Chip’s Why Make Sense? was a touch over-layered. No one could accuse frontman Alexis Taylor of not addressing this on his third solo album. Just his wafer fragile voice and a piano throughout, it offers hope of redemption, some surrender, takes on love and even gospel tinges, and all with just the ivories and vocals.
Alexis Taylor has never been a man to shy away from sentimentality, in whatever creative guise he adopts - most notably in Hot Chip. But his return as a solo artist with ‘Piano’ might just be the logical conclusion to a career of unabashed candour. Crafted with a different spirit to ‘Await Barbarians’, on ‘Piano’ all embellishments and synthetics are stripped away, seeing Taylor at his most exposed, only the bare elements of a piano and his delicately emotive voice as the tools at his disposal.
Having mastered clever, chart-friendly dance-pop, Hot Chip have reached the point where they can do pretty much whatever they please. For singer Alexis Taylor, that has meant exploring jazz and funk with side-project About Group, and getting experimental on solo albums Rubbed Out and Await Barbarians. If those works felt pared-down, they’ve got nothing on his follow-up: Piano is just Taylor performing covers, Hot Chip and About Group tracks and original songs on the old Joanna.
While the British synthpop outfit Hot Chip built a wide following with their energetic and experimental sound, singer Alexis Taylor has garnered attention in his own right with his tender and stripped back solo material. Since his debut solo release of 2008’s Rubbed Out, Taylor’s solo work has been a far cry from his band’s discography, but the change of pace was welcomed as it diversified his own identity as a musician. With his latest effort Piano, Taylor bravely put himself front and center with a piano as his only accompaniment across 11 tracks, but ultimately ends up sounding uninspired.
Alexis Taylor — Piano (Moshi Moshi)Alexis Taylor, frontman of the emotive, fizzy Hot Chip and the more abstractly funky About Group, is not exactly as high on the list of singers you’d expect to make a solo piano record as, say, Ben Folds, but it’s also not as unlikely a fit as, for example, Andrew WK (remember?). As that range might suggest, just making an album with no instruments except piano doesn’t tell you much about what the music is going to sound or feel like. But if the consistently lovely Piano is radical at all, it’s in a subtle and contextual way, serving partly as a space for Taylor to investigate several of his own previously released compositions and a few covers with a quiet kind of focus, and partly as a sustained exercise in mood.
Alexis Taylor 'Piano' (Moshi Moshi)There’s something almost voyeuristic about listening to this poignant album from Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor. It’s just him, a piano and a bunch of songs (some original, some standards), and they feel so raw that listening to them borders on the uncomfortable. Taylor’s sweet, fragile voice is centre stage: on a rendition of Elvis favourite ‘Crying In The Chapel’, you can hear him inhaling and exhaling; you can even make out the saliva crackle on his lips.