Saddle Creek | Maria Taylor | Reviews


There's something about "Something About Knowing"

Author: Daniel Scheurerman
01/03/2014 | Omahype | | Feature
Normally when an artist starts writing happy songs, I’m done. There’s something pious and self-congratulatory about a former sad sack saying, “I get it now. It’s so easy.” It always seems too easy and somewhat hollow. Like they’ve traded in the brazen bull — that torture chamber that translates dying screams into music — for a condo. Of course, it’s great for them, but it’s not very satisfying.

Not so with Maria Taylor’s new album, Something About Knowing. It’s happy while being profound. It’s pretty and peaceful and sober without being self-righteous.

Something About Knowing is the product of Maria Taylor, new mom. It brims with the kind of calm mania that only new parenthood can bring. Most of the songs on it were written in front of a baby monitor in the spring of 2012. In short spurts during her newborn Miles’ naps, she wrote 10 songs that explore love and revisit old dreams and fears in the new light of motherhood.

The baby monitor acted as a sort of creative egg timer. When the baby was done napping, she was done writing. Whereas on prior albums, she’d lock herself in a room with a bottle of wine and write for day, the new process forced a different kind of focus. “In a way, the process was more intuitive,” she said via email. “I rarely had time to overthink a melody or a lyric.”

The intuition paid off. Something About Knowing brims with simple, un-fussed-over truths. On the title track, she sings to Miles about building the ideal life out of the best qualities of her loved ones — laughter from her brother, wise words from her mother, light from her sister, and restlessness from her father. When she quotes her mother, saying “Put in what you want from this life,” it’s not a facile prescription, but a statement of ultimate responsibility.

Three of the songs on the album are directly about Miles, but the other seven benefit from another perspective.

“Giving birth to a new life changes everything: how you look at yourself, and everyone around you. While selflessness becomes a necessity, the desire to be that way, and a better person in general, is stronger than I have ever known,” Taylor said.

Throughout the album, whenever dealing with romantic love, there’s an emphasis on peacemaking. On “Tunnel Vision” she confesses to “betting on the other side” to the detriment of a relationship. “Tunnel vision/ Can take you through hell,” she sings, as someone who has been there.


In the leadoff track, “Folk Song Melody,” Taylor sings about having it all. “I got lucky all right/ This was never gonna be my life. / You can’t be free until you’re ready.” It’s the kind of sentiment that could sound too easy, but ends up sounding humble, grateful. The secret is in its full-blown astonishment. It feels authentic — as authentic as the disappointment or cynicism of her past work.

It’s rare that a happy album works. Maybe it has something to do with suffering. There’s still a suffering in Something About Knowing, but it’s acknowledged and transformed by the experience of motherhood. On “Up All Night,” she sings through sleepless delirium, trying to come to terms with why she feels so good.

Or maybe it’s just me. When Taylor sings “these are the best days of my life,” I know she’s right. My wife just had a baby, and we are in the throes of the same monumental warm-fuzzies that Taylor was when she wrote this album. Having a newborn, it’s like you get to have nostalgia for the present. He looks just like you, except perfect. He cleanses your entire history in his first breath. And the whole thing is so ephemeral — he’s going to look completely different next week — that you’re focused on absorbing all the good you can.

This album has meant a lot to me the past couple weeks, as I’ve visited family for Christmas. I’m not sure if anyone else will relate to it, but I think it’s one of the great statements about becoming a grownup that I’ve heard. It’s available through Saddle Creek.

Taylor kicks off her tour tonight at the Waiting Room in Omaha with PJ Bond. Miles is with her. According to Taylor, he’s already stirring shit up like a seasoned road dog. “Miles threw his lunch on the ground at Applebees, and then yelled ‘ho ho ho’ over and over at a large man with a white beard. He later met a girl in the lobby, tried to follow her into her room, and ran around our hotel room tossing things out of his suitcase, naked. He’s a natural.”