Not So Black and White
Piano, the third full-length solo album from Hot Chip front-man and keyboardist for About Group, Alexis Taylor, is a beautifully bewitching yet ultimately stale record that will likely leave you disappointed yet yearning for more from this undeniably talented artist.
Taylor’s third solo album is a stripped, bare collection of introspective and quiet lyrics accompanied only by piano. Although the album is titled Piano, the accompaniment takes the back seat while Taylor’s enchanting and solemn voice grabs center stage. The sincere lows and blissful highs of Taylor’s voice throughout the album enrich the deep longing of his lyrics. In his cover of Artie Glenn’s “Crying in the Chapel” (made famous by Elvis Presley), Taylor sings, “I pray the Lord that I’ll be stronger/ As I live from day to day/ I’ve searched and I’ve searched but I couldn’t find/ No way on Earth to gain peace of mind/ But now I’m happy in the chapel.” In turn, the record’s lyrics often shift between a search for spiritual solidarity and romantic desire, such as in “I Never Lock that Door,” in which Taylor promises, “For you my love no key is required/ When I come home, love’s not tired/ open arms will always greet you/ and my happiness will meet you/ Come on knockin’ ‘cause I never lock that door.”
While Taylor sings with haunting passion and longing in every lyric, the ultimate problem of this record lies in that there is very little variation between the album’s respective tracks. Although “Lonely Vagabond” and “Don’t Worry” both have interesting and intricate piano accompaniment, every other track is composed of Taylor’s nonetheless entrancing voice and increasingly similar combinations of quarter note and whole note chords. As such, the record’s tracks somewhat blend together, giving the album the appearance of one long series of such dreary accompaniment. Despite Taylor’s lovely voice, the album becomes difficult to listen to over time as its rhythms and sounds become increasingly familiar and predictable.
Despite the lack of variation in this record, however, Taylor’s vocal and lyrical skills are clear and instantly enjoyable. On their own, tracks like “I Never Lock that Door” and “In the Light of the Room” are beautiful homages to the pursuit of romantic solidarity. While the album as a whole is repetitive and ultimately dry, there are moments of brilliance which suggest Taylor’s progression as a talented artist.