Saddle Creek | Maria Taylor | Reviews



06/06/2005 | | | Album Review
There may be no other album in 2005 that has struck me with such a blinding blow as Maria Taylor's 11:11. Always having been a fan of Azure Ray (the duo of which Maria is joined by Orenda Fink) since the introduction of 2001's Azure Ray (WARM) - I was prepared & excited for the enchanting trademark Maria's vocals possess. This album has outdone anything Azure Ray have released over their brief yet successful 5-year existence.

Working with two of the most talented young producers / artists of our time (Mike Mogis & Andy LeMaster, resp.), as well as being on the most influential independent label (Saddle Creek) - Maria was heading into this project favorably, and my how she has come out with ten essential tracks that make one of the select albums I suggest you do not miss this year.

"Leap Year" begins 11:11, and sets the pace for a slightly more upbeat, electronic approach to what we have come to expect from Azure Ray, and the addition of a limited cast of Saddle Creek all-stars (Gretta Cohn on many tracks, Mogis also lends his mandolin & pedal steel that made Fevers and Mirrors the cornerstone it is today) carries this album throughout. It is, however, the turning point on the album in "One for the Shareholder" that will leave you stunned, awed and claiming that Maria and Mike Mogis have made a cleverly daring and immediately brilliant choice in putting this track mid-album. With a stark, intense under beat that sounds like Mogis may have robbed the Faint of one of their best outtakes (this programming is superb!), should "One for the Shareholder" ever make it to modern radio - all the solo vixens of now need to hide out for a solid season. Written and programmed entirely by Mogis, Maria's delivery on this lone track is enough to put 11:11 in the upper-tier for 2005 - but it's the surrounding diversity that makes her solo-outing something not to be missed or shunned. ".. Shareholder" is book ended by instant classics "Light House" and the delicate, obsessive-compulsive-anthemed "Xanax" - both with Maria on acoustic guitar. This young lady may just be "taking a break" from her main outfit in Azure Ray - but by the sounds captured here, she can pretty much move anywhere she cares on the board and make it sound perfect. Just look at "Song Beneath the Song", where she is credited with vocals, piano, guitar and drums. In the voice of Napoleon Dynamite: "Yessssss".

I must add, near closer "Speak Easy" transforms to another realm completely with addition of banjo and upright bass - the captured feel sounds like it belongs on a vinyl 78 or on Verve (Lady in Autumn, Billie Holiday-era). 11:11 showcases an obviously talented young woman doing just what she was meant to do.


LP / CD / MP3