Alexis Taylor’s second full-length solo album Awaiting Barbarians is a testament to the “less is more” philosophy. Taylor recorded every instrument (except the strings) on the minimalistic project. Awaiting Barbarians was announced in February and released this week; that quick turnaround lends itself to Taylor’s sparse production style and inclination to put albums together quickly (one of Taylor’s bands, About Group, recorded a jazz album in a day). Taylor has taken a more down-tempo departure from his gig as frontman of pop-dance band Hot Chip and member of About Group. The only connection between the two is Taylor’s soothing musings.
Musically, the album is a delight. Taylor flexes his piano nuts on “Piano Ducks,” which is just that, some quacking and what sounds like an improvised piano solo. It’s prettier listened to than read. Lyrically, Awaiting Barbarians is clever, honest and even witty. Songs like “Where Would I Be Without You,” and “Am I Not A Soldier” are the type of songs that should be playing in the background of an indie film, when the protagonist is contemplating something life-changing, preferably during a rainstorm.
“Without a Crutch (2)” is the lightest of the songs on the album both musically, with its bouncy banjo riffs, and lyrically, with its references to Rock-Paper-Scissors. Taylor’s voice always remains fragile and serene despite the lofty lyrics. It’s easy to get tangled in Taylor’s metaphors and obscure imagery, but the tone of his voice feels like assurance that sometimes things are simpler than they appear.
Awaiting Barbarians is an album you really want to like because that would mean that you understand Taylor’s non sequiturs, and that would make you deeper than everyone else. It isn’t impossible, but a bit of extra effort is needed. Maybe, one day, you too can speak in riddles.