Maria Taylor

LadyLuck

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Maria Taylor's third solo record finds the Azure Ray alumna ruminating over a relationship gone wrong, with folksy pop/rock guitars replacing the electronic instruments on her older albums. Organs and mellotrons are still present, but LadyLuck is largely an acoustic album, dressed up with string arrangements and other flourishes but largely focused on Taylor's vocals and guitar. She wields a versatile voice, one that's equally adept at crooning warm ballads and wringing the nuances out of seemingly commonplace hooks. "Oh, we dreamed a life," she sings during "Time Lapse Timeline," delivering the lines at a relaxed pace that often falls just after the beat. "It was just like that, and just like that it's gone." Occasionally, such heartbroken lyrics steer the music too avidly, and "Orchids" treads a dangerously fine line between lush, pretty balladry and magnified melancholia. But Taylor knows when to contrast her musings with her music, and she balances LadyLuck's poignancy with some surprisingly bright moments, from the summery strum of the title track (whose doot doot vocal hook and woodwind arrangement recalls Sufjan Stevens' work) to "Cartoons and Forever Plans," which features distinctive harmonies by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe. Those seeking Azure Ray's dreamy pop won't find much comfort here, and Taylor's whimsical lyrics -- which, during their gooiest moments, reference things like endless dreams, hummingbirds, and green butterflies -- aren't for the cynical of heart. Still, her foray into the singer/songwriter world has been a thoroughly enjoyable one, and LadyLuck proves to be another fine release.

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