Review Summary: The debut of Maria Taylor, one half of beloved dream pop duo Azure Ray, is a dreamy, oft sad-core acoustic work. Delightful, beautiful, and soothing.
"Save my money for that plain ride / Horn of plenty, heavy sunlight / Autumn's bounty, bread and red wine / In a hurry, but there's so much time," Maria Taylor sings on "Leap Year,"
at the kick off of her wonderful debut 11:11.
With some frantic, minimal beats, minimal piano chimes, and some... minimal... programming... It's basically just a minimalist fantasy. It is a beautiful track, and you can appreciate the warm feeling of the music and writing.
That is just one hint of the beauty of this work. Maria Taylor had just left Azure Ray, (as did Orenda Fink,) to pursue a solo career. And here it is, in full form. Her debut. Intoxicating, entrancing, and pure are some words to describe it. But when you get down to it, how is this so different from the dream pop smokiness of Azure Ray? It's really not much different. If you want that, go to Orenda Fink's more experimental solo debut, Invisible Ones.
Otherwise, you're stuck with the minor detachment from the Omaha-via-Athens duo.
Maybe that's a good thing, considering how lovely the duo was/is. "Nature Song,
" the most Azure Ray-sounding tune, is a slow, drifting song that I think is about human nature, and nature in itself, and how she's simply facing it for what it is ("It will not return until the season's change / And when it changes fine I'll go, I'll go, I'll go..."). It has some wonderful instrumentation, as does the following track, "Lighthouse."
But songs about watching kids not growing up to be what they should, and things that "aren't supposed to touch the ground," might not be your cup of your tea. No worries. Maybe you prefer the monochromatic bounciness of the first [and only] single, "Song Beneath the Song."
In my opinion, this song is dull, with it's extremely repetitive chorus, as she repeats "It's not a love song" over and over... and over. The video is pretty oddly artsy too, with some Japanese theater couple being... who knows what. But it contains some of the best writing schemes, and some of the best wording. Another dull track is its succeeding track, "Two of Those Two."
While undoubtedly beautiful with guitar and piano, and some light airy vocals, it lacks depth. It's simply about a couple moving away from their previous lives and being thankful. Yeah. Seems like a sappy movie?
Moving on to some other highlights, the very slow, 5+ minute "Xanax"
is a wonderful ride of every day life. Fears, letting go and knowing to move on, and finding a comfortable niche in life. You may claim it's boring, and it kind of is, in the repetitive bridge, but it's the most down-to-Earth song, that more people can relate to. Another standout is the old-sounding "Speak Easy."
A tiny bit country tinged, Taylor sings delicately and beautifully about losing love only to have it reborn, ("Under a lucky star / Our love was born brand new.") It's a healing track, and is perhaps the best one.
The extremely cheery, somewhat sappy, "Birmingham 1982,"
recalls delightful childhood memories (hence the clever title.) Also, the great, Cat Power-esque closer, "Hitched,"
details of a beautiful love that "made you feel so alive," in "a place far, far away from here... long, long ago." It's the simplest track, and one of the nicest to listen to.
So, while this may not be extremely different from Azure Ray -- aside from the iffy, questionable, electronic "dance" track "One For the Shareholder"
that doesn't quite seem to fit but shows some differentiation and growth -- it is still a delightful listen. Maria Taylor's vocals are consistently fine. Just fine. They always sound a bit down, but that's her style. (That also adds to the Azure Ray similarities, along with the sometimes-"ehh" lyrics.) It is a perfect album for rainy nights of relaxation, or for long train rides through beautiful countrysides and landscapes, or if you just want to share some human moments of happiness, love, and sadness with someone else. Yes. Perhaps that's its best quality.
Some amazing lyrics
Delicate, nice vocals
Consistency (it's both)
Monotonous at times
"ehh" lyrics, or dull lyrics