Next Tuesday (August 16th), Maria Taylor is releasing Overlook, which is her fourth solo album. This new disc is rawer, both in sound and emotion, than Taylor’s work with Azure Ray and Now It’s Overhead, and Taylor produced this disc herself after coming off a year-long writing dry spell.
Maria Taylor recorded this new disc in her hometown of Birmingham, AL having moved from Los Angeles early last year and her goal was to capture the sound of Alabama and its music scene. Collaborators on Overlook include neighbor Lester Nubry III, who engineered the disc and played drums on two tracks; guitarist Browan Lollar, who is part of Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit with who Taylor toured with earlier this spring; and siblings Macey Taylor (who adds bass, keys and backing vocals to a number of tracks) and Kate Taylor (backing vocals and marimba on “Matador”) along with Maria’s father Macey Taylor Sr., who played mandolin and added backing vocals to the song “Bad Idea”.
The core lyrical theme of the disc is a coming of (middle) age self-analysis (though Taylor is only 35) and the music ranges from wispy dream-pop to Michelle Shocked-style ragtime Americana to alt-country/folk to pulsing, jagged, alt-rock. While there are a lot of stylistic jumps on this new disc, most of it works.
The disc starts out strong with two of the more upbeat tracks “Masterplan” and “Matador”. “Masterplan” starts with minimalist vocals and a low pulsing beat and the song breaks open midway through with horns and keys and a vital sense of urgency. “Matador” also has pulsing percussion but the song has a bigger sound -- it is layered and lush and mixes squalling guitars and jagged alt-rock with dreamy harmonies. From here, Taylor heads down an alt-country/Americana path. “Happenstance” occupies similar territory to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s works and “Idle Mind” perfectly captures lonely, late-night melancholia.
Note: Ignore the YouTube song title - this is a live performance of "Happenstance"
The strong material that starts and ends this disc more than outweighs the few "soft points" in the middle and all of the songs start to grow on you after a few listens.