Saddle Creek | Azure Ray | Reviews


Hold On Love

Author: Wade Coggeshall
01/09/2004 | | | Album Review
Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, the two ladies behind the moniker Azure Ray, have gone from cookie-cutter rock to despondent balladry and finespun orchestral maneuvers in their still-short careers.

The Athens, Ga. natives started off in the modern rock act Little Red Rocket (they have rocket tats on their forearms for proof) but after being dropped by their record label took a wholly different direction. Dropping the heavy riffing for moody string arrangements and chilly piano swaths, the duo formed Azure Ray and released two full-lengths on WARM Records before joining Omaha's little label that could, Saddle Creek.

Their second recording for the Midwestern record company, "Hold On Love," features 12 songs that almost serve as last breaths, lamentations on broken relationships, bad situations and painful regret. But while their lyrics are steeped in the dark side of the human condition, a sense of hope still prevails underneath the surface. Vocal-wise, Fink and Taylor give a truly understated performance. Their voices become one in a continual, ethereal sigh. The swelling, lilting string arrangements by Eric Bachmann (who also produced the album) fill out the songs.

"Hold On Love" begins with an elegant solitary piano figure on "The Devil's Feet." Knotty twisting electronic beats, programmed by The Faint's Clark Baechle (also a Saddle Creek alumnus), enter the mix to give the song vestiges of Bjork. Those beats, this time with a slack, almost trampoline bounce to them, continue on "New Resolution" along with compelling piano thumps. These release into an upbeat chorus with busy strings and live drums.

The trotting acoustic and distant pedal steel on "Look to Me" underscore a fragile vocal turn. As well, Fink and Taylor's almost wavering delivery on "Sea of Doubts" aptly conveys the track's message: "Through mountains and over seas, through misery and disease. A spectator I played my part, but nothing could move this heart."

"If You Fall" gives the disc an emotional lift more than halfway through with shuffling time and ginger piano warmth. In similar fashion, "Nothing Like a Song" spotlights a serious baroque style.

Richly textured strings and gorgeous twinkling keys act as a beacon of hope in the broken-hearted confession of "These White Lights Will Bend to Make Blue." But it's the title track that closes the record where pleas are made for bonds to remain strong, even through the worst life throws at you ("And when the darkness falls over, like a storm cloud in my head. Something inside says it's easier to push you away, but stay and hold on love").

Welcome to Azure Ray's 21st century chamber pop.
Hold On Love

Hold On Love

LP / CD / MP3