It’s been nearly two years since Grizzly Bear‘s opus Veckatimest left its indelible mark on the musical spectrum. It was a work that transcended many of their so called peers’ recent efforts, with the Brooklyn quartet solidifying an already heady level of reverence by taking that step further into the larger musical mindset, with single Two Weeks littering radio stations and the album reaching many a critical end of year list with worthy reason. By breaking away from their darker corners and finding liberation in an enhancement of their melodic fortes, the band found a beautiful new breathing space. So it was only natural that should one of them take the plunge, any new musical endeavours would take a similar tack.
Under his new alias of CANT, bassist, vocalist and general multi-instrumental hero Chris Taylor is the first to wade into those potentially murky waters with his debut, Dreams Come True. Having already made his name outside of the band with production work for compatriots TV On The Radio and Dirty Projectors, not to mention starting his own label imprint Terrible Records, it seems Taylor’s is a stride not to be broken. But beyond his multi-faceted talents what Dreams Come True proves to be is an exorcism of Taylor’s shadowy pop ghosts. Opener Too Late, Too Far sets the record’s seductive pace, swanning around on a percussive groove tapered by double bass grooves as Taylor’s swooning vocal retains the melodic harmonies of his grizzly band compatriots. Follow-up Believe, written with George Lewis Jnr. aka Twin Shadow (the two collaborated on a charity single with Solange Knowles earlier this year), echoes his kinsman’s drunken Prince ode before the synthesised slow-jam of The Edge continues to prove Taylor as a writer of wonderfully homaged works of modern R’n'B.
Those nostalgic musical hallmarks of his habitat find Taylor at his best. For a man of so many apparent skills, the risk of spreading himself too thin seems, for the most part, to be an unjustified worry. His production skills and songwriting prowess are obviously at their strongest when he is working within his known musical skills – soulful vocals, choral harmonies and, very occasionally but beautifully underplayed, acoustic balladry. It’s only when Taylor aims for the adventurous that things feel incomplete. Whilst these moments are rare, they leave an otherwise wonderfully likeable record that would slide comfortably amongst his other stand-out work somewhat tarnished. She Found A Way Out becomes disjointed when broken from its Yellow House interiors into a gothic bass sludge, warping Taylor’s once fragile and affable vocal into something unnecessarily sinister. When stood up against the pop-laden, Metronomy-like angles of Answer, it only makes that ever so slight sojourn into the unknown more intangible.
With CANT, Taylor has, unquestionably, confirmed his reputation as one of the more underrated producers of the past five years. The question may reside whether his songwriting talents need to be reined in, but there’s no doubting that he is of enough substance and talent to stand on his own two feet. Dreams Come True was never going to reach the near untouchable height of his canon, but you’d be hard pressed to map out a better first attempt to break free from that diamond-encrusted leash.