Release Date: Aug 16, 2011
Record label: Saddle Creek Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Maria Taylor keeps things loose and casual on her fourth solo record, combining the lush, midtempo ballads that have always been her bread and butter with a handful of pop songs and folksy Americana tunes. The slower numbers are as gorgeous as ever, with tracks like “Idle Mind” floating Taylor’s brittle voice over knotted layers of lap steel, flute, and acoustic guitar arpeggios. But Overlook really hits its stride whenever the tempo picks up.
Birmingham, Ala., has a surprisingly vibrant indie scene, with acts as diverse as 13ghosts, Delicate Cutters and Vulture Whale making inventive music that puts new spins on Southern rock and folk. So when Maria Taylor moved from Los Angeles back to her hometown, it wasn’t like she was moving into the middle of nowhere, just somewhere very different from the West Coast. Overlook, her first album since returning to Birmingham, reflects those interests and benefits tremendously from the change of scenery.
Maria Taylor was/is one half—the better half—of the melancholic female duo Azure Ray, formerly Little Red Rocket. Taylor was the one who provided the sweet melodies to counter Orenda Fink’s a-melodic droning. Taylor most often saved the band from the incomprehensible blandness that Fink was driving towards. Luckily, they disbanded in 2004 and Taylor was free to create the kinds of songs she was struggling to bring forward while trapped in the duo—this, of course, is my interpretation and Taylor could have been wonderfully content with the status of Azure Ray’s career.
Saddle Creek veteran artist Maria Taylor strives for a lush and rootsy sound on her fourth full-length album, Overlook, but lands somewhere in Lilith Fair territory. A member of Azure Ray and Now It’s Overhead, in addition to being an occasional Bright Eyes collaborator, Taylor has shown her staying power in the Saddle Creek family for several years. However, her solo efforts are often lackluster, coming up just short of usual Azure Ray wonder and Oberst-collaborative gold.
The statuesque features of Maria Taylor may be best recognisable to some as the ghostly female presence that has at various points lurked behind Conor Oberst in Bright Eyes. Taylor was probably most prominent in that band during their Cassadaga period, while her work with Orenda Fink as part of Azure Ray has produced a number of splendid records of hazy, sophisticated pop, a bit like a more grown-up, arguably slightly greyer version of CocoRosie. Overlook is her fourth solo album, and her first since 2009's LadyLuck, an unfortunately awful collection of turgid ballads that seemed especially bad when compared with her previous album, 2007's Lynn Teeter Flower, a majestic LP that placed her in a vaguely similar songwriting lineage as Joni Mitchell or Cat Power, but with an attractive restraint and understatement that appeared again on Azure Ray's 2010 comeback record, Drawing Down The Moon.