Before you listen to her new album, Maria Taylor suggests you prepare yourself. Listen to it, she says “in a dark room, with a candle or two with headphones, maybe in the bath, but definitely horizontal.”
Though much of the deliciously diverse LadyLuck is inspired by the end of a relationship, it’s not dripping with sadness and grief, nor is it in-your-face empowering. Rather, Taylor strikes a stunning balance between melancholy (aching strings, hushed vocals) and uplifting (rolling rhythms, shimmering keys), highlighted by sharp lyrics that draw optimism out of sadness. This is not a woman down on her luck.
LadyLuck, Taylor’s third solo effort, is about “personal growth and the change that comes with it,” she says. Much of the album was written as Taylor was preparing for a move (to Los Angeles) and immediately after arriving. “This change in my life was so so needed,” she says, “that, whereas lots of older songs have happy words but a sad undertone, these songs have sad words but with hopeful undertones of renewal.”
Change is something Taylor has welcomed in her career, which started at age 15 in the Birmingham, AL-based band Little Red Rocket. Taylor later became one-half of the dream pop band Azure Ray and left in 2005 to strike out on her own. “I just listen to my gut…always,” she says of the move. “Something said it’s time to try something different.” In 2005 she released the bold and critically-acclaimed solo album 11:11 which featured vocals by Conor Oberst. In 2007 she delivered Lynn Teeter Flower, which showcased her growth as a solo artist, as well as her aptitude for inventive beats and featured Doug Easley (Cat Power, Pavement) and Spoon’s Jim Eno.
On LadyLuck, Taylor changes things again, trading beat-centric tracks for more guitar and vocals (though she does get behind the drums on “It’s Time”). As on previous albums, she works with Now It’s Overhead’s Andy LeMaster as well as new contributor, REM’s Michael Stipe, both of whom collaborated on the album’s final track, “Cartoons and Forever Plans.”
First single “Time Lapse Lifetime,” with its orchestral strings and grand melody, is about how fast life moves and how in a moment everything can change. Appropriately, the song is punctuated by both a driving beat and lingering plaintive vocals, with breaks of near-silence for poignant turns of phrase. “Oh, we dreamed a life / and it was just like that, and just like that it’s gone,” Taylor sings as lone strings fade out.
Intimate, earnest, and complex, LadyLuck is Taylor’s most stunning effort to date. Whether you listen to it in the dark or light, with headphones or on the stereo, horizontal, vertical, or diagonal,LadyLuck will move you to cry, to dance, to sing, and everything in between.