Album Reviews

Maria Taylor – Lady Luck

(Nettwerk) UK release date: 20 April 2009

Even if you don’t know the name, you’ll have heard Maria Taylor’s voice, especially if you’re a fan of a particular genre of US television shows.

For over the last couple of years, Taylor has quietly become a staple on the soundtracks of shows such as Scrubs, One Tree Hill and Grey’s Anatomy – the latter of which, incidentally, was primarily responsible for giving Snow Patrol‘s Chasing Cars the ubiquity it enjoys today.

Whether Taylor would ever become as big as Gary Lightbody and friends is a moot point however. Taylor’s music is more intimate and less bombastic – her third album is chock-full of quiet, wistful folky pop: the sort that you could hear coming out of any coffee shop or clothes store on the high street.

And therein lies the problem. When Taylor’s first solo album was released following the break-up of Azure Ray, she sounded startlingly different. Her songs were eerie, ethereal affairs, with ambient bleeps and beats underscoring the more traditional acoustic setting.

That side of her music has been steadily ironed out now, which is a shame as she seems to have lost some of her personality with it. When she gets it right here – as on Time Lapse Lifeline with its heartbreaking chorus of “once we had a life, then just like that it’s gone” – it sounds wonderful. Yet too many times on Lady Luck, the results are blandly monochromatic.

Take the opening title track for example. There’s a strummed acoustic guitar, gentle strings and soft ‘doo-doo-doo’ backing vocals. It’s nice, it’s pleasant – but it’s also a tad twee, and not really the sort of opening track to grab the attention.

The aforementioned Time Lapse Lifetime does raise the hopes though – a beautifully written number about how the end of a relationship can rob you of your dreams, and there’s real passion in Taylor’s voice. It’s a trick repeated in the driving 100,000 Times, while the fragile My Favourite Love sounds beautifully haunting.

Elsewhere though, it sounds very much ‘folky pop by the numbers’. There are melancholy ladies with guitars everywhere you look at the moment, and you need something special to stand out from the crowd. The second half of the album in particular is bogged down in colourless ballads, with tracks like Broad Daylight and Orchids being notable only for having precisely nothing interesting of note about them.

Thankfully, Taylor does pull it together in time for the last track, Cartoons And Forever Plans, a country-esque number with the unmistakable vocals of Michael Stipe helping out. It’s a lovely shuffle of a song, and provides some much needed light amongst all the angsty ballads on display here.

Lady Luck isn’t a bad album – it’s just nothing particularly special. Which, from a woman as talented as Maria Taylor has proved herself to be in the past, is somewhat of a shame.

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More on Maria Taylor
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Maria Taylor – Lady Luck
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