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Alexis Taylor - Beautiful Thing (Album Review)

Tuesday, 01 May 2018 Written by Ben Gallivan

Photo: Ronald Dick 

Anyone who has followed the ebbs and flows of Alexis Taylor’s solo output over the past decade will be well versed in the changing styles of his music.

The minimalist electronica of 2014’s ‘Await Barbarians’ was followed a couple of years later by the beautiful ‘Piano’, a sparse affair written and recorded with that very instrument accompanied only by Taylor’s fragile falsetto. Channelling the Flaming Lips’ ‘Zaireeka’ experiment, ‘Listen With(out) Piano’ came out a year later and was designed to either be played in tandem with its predecessor or as an album in its own right.

There have, of course, been more tender moments throughout Taylor’s time with his ‘main’ project, Hot Chip. Look at Where We Are from ‘In Our Heads’ and Bad Luck, which features on 2004’s ‘Coming on Strong’, are prime examples of his skill in penning a cracking ballad.

His new record, ‘Beautiful Thing’, tries to amalgamate the last 18 years of Taylor’s songwriting styles into one record, and it does it pretty bloody well.

It’s a charming album that manages to incorporate the sounds of his early bedroom-recorded ballads, the more progressive dance-pop of prime Hot Chip and his later solo offerings. ‘Beautiful Thing’ offers 10 sprawling tunes (we’re averaging around the five-minute mark here – no throwaways to be found) that predominantly showcase the softer side of Taylor’s writing.

Admittedly, it is the more up-tempo songs that grab the attention on first listen (the title track is one to get particularly excited about) but the more you listen to the album as a whole, the more you realise how well it works.

Dreaming Another Life is a worthy introduction, with its guitar stab accompanied by a simple beat and muted bass, announcing that we’re not just going to be treated to simple acoustic melodies this time around. Taylor’s unmistakable voice doesn’t so much kick in as it does knock first before gingerly entering the room.

One song that wouldn’t have looked out of place on ‘Piano’ is Roll on Blank Tapes. The added glitchy instrumentation doesn’t really add much to proceedings and it would have perhaps have been better received using just piano and voice. But that’s a criticism so picky it feels a little unfair. Oh Baby is another mid-album highlight featuring a stomping beat (real drums!) mixed up with lyrics that focus on the fragile art of living together.

The dreamy closing trio are more typical of Taylor’s recent contributions, but there are enough disorienting changes in style throughout ‘Beautiful Thing’ to keep the casual listener guessing. As Taylor explains during the opening song: “The changes are hard to hear, but I know they hide in here.”





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