|Maria Taylor - 11:11|
Saddle Creek Records
1. Leap Year
2. Song Beneath a Song
3. Two of Those Two
4. Nature Song
5. Light House
6. One for the Shareholder
8. Birmingham 1982
9. Speak Easy
The voice of an angel and some of the most elegant, delicate, well-written indie gems of the year. 11:11 is no longer just a lucky time on the clock where we hold our breath for a minute or make empty wishes, no longer a moment where everyone freezes and can’t speak until the digital numbers change, no... Maria Taylor has blessed 11:11 with a whole new significance. Every review I have read of this album, commences with high praise of Maria’s past work with an abundance of big name indie celebrities (i.e. Moby) and just about everyone on the Saddle Creek roster, apparently, she even dated Connor Oberst. However, she is probably most well known for her full time roles in Azure Ray and Now It’s Overheard, both on - you guessed it! - Saddle Creek. Certainly, Maria Taylor has built herself a venerable resume among an exciting and influential scene. Yet until now, her work has been somewhat indefinable. Despite her notable achievements of the past, it is with her first solo release that she truly reserves her pedestal in music, and she is a force to be reckoned with.
For Maria, 11:11 is her Digital Ash and her I’m Wide Awake, as her arrangements include synth/digital elements, as well as your basic acoustic guitar, drums, and hints of piano. Some songs fuse the two sounds and others dance entirely on one side of the spectrum. Only a minute or so into the first song “Leap Year,” you will understand me when I exclaim that this album reaches a level of beauty and serenity that anyone can appreciate, and I myself marvel at. Generally the album is emotive, but not in a typical sense. Here it is more so that the music is impulsively romantic, and despite the vastly repeated chorus of the second track where Maria (and guest: Mr.Oberst) relay “it’s not a love, it’s not a love, it’s not a love song,” a few songs are undeniably just that. This number entitled “Song Beneath a Song” shows the first signs of the upbeat, and reveals that Maria does withhold the ability to be catchy.
Maria’s voice is celestial and enchanting, divine yet innocent, and one of the most euphoniously soothing sounds I’ve ever enjoyed. She is so unique in that you can hear the charm and wit of a woman but not without the hesitancy and chastity of youth. As evidence I wouldn’t even be able to take an educated guess at her age without an image. The way Maria sings and records her vocals allows the listener to hear her pronounce and annunciate, literally down to the parting of her lips between words and the crackle of her vocal chords as they form a syllable. I love this feature, because it transforms an already stunningly gorgeous folk song like “Two of Those Two,” into something even more personal and sincere. This piece literally tugs at my heart strings with the friendly glow of folk-pop guitar and simplistic piano. I’ve always had an affinity for music that can put me to sleep, and I’ve being going to bed with this record in my ears for weeks now. A swooning ballad like “Nature Song,” is as precious of a lullaby as one could desire.
“Light House,” is highlighted by the timidly methodic energy of the backing percussion track, and then the most lively number on the album is found in “One For the Shareholder,” the most blatant effort at achieving that true digital spirit, which still maintains a softness because of the lofty vocals, but does offer a beat worth dancing to. If you enjoyed Connor’s Digital Ash, this song is right up your alley, it contrives a very similar feeling. “Xanax,” is a clever play on the well known anti-anxiety pill, seeing how the song exhibits a nervous aura, with lyrics spanning several personal internal fears. Coming off this slightly darker tone we are treated to, “Birmingham 1982.” Very much a pop song, the atmosphere here is optimistic and made even more fun by vintage sounding guitar licks straight out of the 60's holding up the rear. The warmth lingers still, as standout track “Speak Easy,” makes a pleasant appearance. Now Maria lends us an easygoing bluegrass hit complete with banjo and sweet violin accompaniment, this is the most obvious love song, and it is darling. It was a truly wise choice to hold “Hitched,” as the closing track. Anywhere else on the album it may have been slightly swallowed, but as a finale this beautiful and somewhat Decemberists sounding tune easily serves its purpose, and leaves the listener with a wonderful last taste, as pretty female choir sounding vocals bring the record to its end.
I thank Maria Taylor for such a sincere, alluring, and beatific gift. Let it be your dream, your breath of fresh air, your escape from the often dense and cloudy world. Sit back and let Maria’s voice relieve you and fulfill you at the same time, close your eyes and let her smart words and elegant arrangements sweep you off your feet. Heavenly, ethereal, and angelic she is. Complex, overdone, and demanding she is not. Don’t miss what is to be one of the better indie releases of the year, and then also purchase the solo album from Orenda Fink, the other half of Azure Ray. Now when the clock strikes 11:11, let go of childish tradition, and be moved by the enchanting work of Ms. Taylor.