Hot Chip member Alexis Taylor stretches his instrumental stylings across indietronica through that band and his improvisational rock through About Group. But with his new solo album, Beautiful Thing, Taylor makes quite the impression in the synth-pop space.
Beautiful Thing opens with a song that pays homage to Phil Collins in a very Genesis-inspired way with “Dreaming of Another Life.” Taylor expertly imparts relevance to exciting Toto-esque virtuosity through noisy reverb that, while grating at times, accentuates the size of the track. Beautiful Thing does come with boombox-busting beats, but Taylor’s sound can manifest at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, ranging from upbeat fashion runway to the calming ambiance of floating on thin air.
Alexis Taylor gives audiences their fair share of Paul McCartney-meets-San Cisco on tunes like “Oh Baby” and “Suspicious of Me.” The former reminisces on the ’50s jukebox feel of Wings classic “Silly Love Songs.” It’s a lovely piano ballad that sends tingles from head to toe. Taylor has a talent for happily marrying his cutting-edge backbone with nostalgic muses for a delectable end product perfect for picturesque dinner dates. The lyrics make it more endearing: “Oh baby when I see your smile/ It breaks that part of this little child/ Oh baby won’t you be my girl.”
His effortless blend of percussion and synth in “Suspicious of Me” feels more currently pop than the aforementioned song but similar in overall feel. The beauty of Alexis Taylor’s consistency is his course of never straying too far from the vintage feel in the tune; not unlike other retro-leaning pop bands like San Cisco.
Although this one-man band has perfected the formula for a successful throwback tune, Taylor can still slow it down for a stripped-back sexy cut. “Deep Cut” touches on the sedated dramatics often used by Elliot Moss and Muse by intertwining of a serenely angelic voice and soft water-droplet sounds. The latter 10 seconds of the song pick up briefly for a splendid finale that leaves listeners reeling in bliss.
“There’s Nothing To Hide” is akin to the alternative indie aura of Daughter’s Music Before the Storm, blended with folksy hymn chords. The power ballad realm showcases his undeniable arrangement chops, while the appropriately named “A Hit Song” will have the most staying power, recalling Alex Turner’s 2011 solo record, Submarine.
Alexis Taylor could arguably be the voice of a new sound and Beautiful Thing remains fresh and chic while paying homage to English rock traditions. Taylor’s songwriting pours out through not only his vulnerable, yet accessible lyrics, but also his eclectic taste in instrumentation. With Beautiful Thing, Taylor has won a victory for Britpop, beckoning us like 5 o’clock tea and scones.
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