By Alexandra Edwards
There's something about
LadyLuck, Maria Taylor's third solo album, that makes you think she's
trying to go more mainstream. Maybe it's the cover art: scrubbed up and
featuring a close shot of Taylor's face, the title written in a girly cursive and
adorned with flowers. It looks like it'd be right at home on the rack at
Starbucks. Compared to Taylor as beautiful hippie recording artist on the cover
of Lynn Teeter Flower, or 11:11's cover, which didn't even feature
her likeness, the difference is noticeable. Ten years ago, this could have been
Jewel's new album cover.
On first listen, the songs don't seem to have
changed any, so maybe we should just blame the art director.
LadyLuck is a strong album built on the beauty and grace of
Maria Taylor's voice, just like her previous efforts. But it's missing
something. Taylor's strongest songs have always her been her most
danceable: "New Resolution" (as one half of Azure Ray), 11:11's "One for the
Shareholders," and Lynn Teeter Flower's "Irish Goodbye" all combine
Taylor's beautifully breathy voice with quick-tempo programmed beats to
produce indie club-ready tracks. These breaks in the soft monotony of her
albums serve as the perfect pick-me-up — on her previous solo albums, these
songs come just after the halfway mark — a little jolt of energy before we
mellow out once again.
Unfortunately, LadyLuck is absent any
such high-gear songs, and it really does sap the interest from the listening
experience, especially towards the end. The title track starts the album out
with an upbeat tone. Strings and woodwind flourishes accent Taylor's unique
vocal style — as usual, she is precise on her consonants and draws out her
vowels in a manner that makes every line resonate in a strange yet perfect way.
"Time Lapse Lifeline" adds a desperate breathiness to the mix; it would be
incredible if not for the unimaginative chorus, repeating the least interesting
line of the song ad nauseum.
Indeed, the first six songs successfully
combine the best of Taylor's style. There aren't any barnburners, but they're
still compelling. But by track seven, the songs fade into slow-tempo
contemplative boringness. So little happens during "Broad Daylight" that it's
almost impossible to pay attention. A dynamic shift from soft to loud and back
again during "Orchids" and the maracas on "Cartoons and Forever Plans" work hard
to being it back up right at the end, but never quite regain the listener's
interest. This weak finish can't help but disappoint after such a good
LadyLuck certainly has its strengths, and fans of Taylor's
previous efforts will find much to enjoy here. But if you were looking for her
to take the next stylistic step with this record, you'll have to keep waiting.
Maria Taylor plays Rock and Roll Hotel in DC on April 10 with The Whispertown 2000. Get your tickets here.