On Await Barbarians, Alexis Taylor takes another break from Hot Chip's brisk electro-pop, delivering more of the confessional songwriting that graced 2008's Rubbed Out. The album's largely acoustic arrangements put Taylor's lyrics in the spotlight, allowing him to dive deeper into the concerns that his main band's latter-day albums have touched on in ways that are more developed, and more intimate, than his solo debut. "New Hours" celebrates building a family; "From the Halfway Line" is a melancholy reflection on middle age; and "Closer to the Elderly" sketches out growing up and growing old in a few simple, consistently rhyming lines. Arguably, these meditations are even more effective on Await Barbarians' thoughtful ballads than they are with Hot Chip's intricate instrumentation. The album's homey production values add to the conversational, unassuming air of tracks like "Lazy Bones" and "Piano Ducks," which features a charming cameo from some unexpected quacking collaborators. Songs such as these drift but stop short of being truly meandering; instead, they invite listeners to slow down to Taylor's pace. Await Barbarians' more fleshed-out songs do this especially well, acting as a welcome gateway for any Hot Chip fans expecting something similar from his solo work. "Where Would I Be?" is the kind of soulful, grown-up love song that could have appeared on In Our Heads, while "Without a Crutch (2)" and "Am I Not a Soldier?" offer ruminative pop that feels personal not just in its subject matter, but in its whispery delivery. There's a take-it-or-leave-it quality to Await Barbarians' open-ended, unvarnished songs, but more often than not, Taylor draws his audience into the album's world in a way that feels like a visit with an old friend.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares