[Album Review/Listen] Maria Taylor – Overlook

“Matador” is the lead single of Maria Taylor’s newest solo effort, “Overlook.”  I’ll cut straight to the point: it’s the only song on the album really worth listening to. Taylor, who’s known for being a part of Azure Ray and sometimes collaborating with Bright Eyes, has put out a wealth of quality work, but none of that shows up here save that one song.

“Matador’s” interesting layers of instruments – from a striking electric guitar to marimba – and vocal harmonies keep the song moving along at a brisk pace. It’s the only song on the album that dares to do much; its last minute starts with a totally off-kilter guitar solo and ends with every instrument coming together in a peak of sound that is, unfortunately, over all too soon.

This leads into the sleepy “Happenstance,” which kills all the energy that “Matador” ended with. It’s an incredibly poor sequencing choice that makes “Happenstance” sound like a worse song than it actually is. In truth, it’s actually fairly effective as a dreamy acoustic song. Strangely, it’s the song after that, “Like it Does,” that seems to transition best from the energy of “Matador” into a more mellow mood. I actually played around with the sequencing hoping to get something that flowed better, but it didn’t solve the problem that about half the songs on the album feel like throwaways. And, curiously, the album seems to be sequenced so that it’s every other song that is the forgettable, boring kind.

“Bad Idea?” is a bit hokey, but its breezy sound makes it uplifting in the innocent way that old Hawaiian records are. “In A Bad Way” is all the way back at track number seven, but it introduces some welcome edge in its melody. Its slightly bluesy bent puts it at the second best song of the album. Album-closer “Along for the Ride” is spacey, calming and calls back Azure Ray’s better work. These three songs are amiable tracks, but they’re all sandwiched in between forgettable acoustic tracks like “Idle Mind” and “This Could Take a Lifetime.” Taylor’s restraint, present throughout every song but “Matador,” becomes dominating on these “sandwich” tracks, overpowering them until they are held-back to the point of suffocation.

In the end, “Overlook” is simply a classic case of too much fat, too much bread for too little meat; it’s a 32-minute LP that would make a solid 12-minute EP.

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