Thursday, April 16, 2009

Review: Maria Taylor 4/14 @ Great Scott

It was two for three at Great Scott Tuesday night.

Ryan Lee Crosby, promoting his new album Out to Dry, did not impress. His whining vocals of whiskey and nameless “babes” set to rock ballad tunes made me cringe. The usually soothing sounds of a harmonica reminiscent of jolly campfire gatherings made me consider actually throwing myself into a fire, any fire. The only thing enjoyable about Ryan Lee Crosby was his black leather jacket, which I probably could have taken during his closed-eye chorus of “yeahs” and “ohs” in nasally moan. I wasn’t the only one. There was no one within seven feet of the stage, and no one quieted their conversations. I heard more of the futile attempt of homeboy trying to pick up the catch of the night than I did of the instrumentals backing up Crosby’s banshee wails. Not that I minded. The lyrics I could make out consisted of “I was central, I had control, I lost my head— I need it, I need it” and “When I see your perfect body, listening in front of me.” Good news: he can rhyme?

Whispertown2000 offered much needed relief. Morgan Nagler, the lead vocalist and songwriter, shot a dose of personality into the show, drawing the crowd away from the bar and to the stage. The Los Angeles-based band sounded like the offspring of Tegan & Sara and Jenny Lewis with more tambourine. Their set featured an eclectic mix of folk rock with a hint of country, although not nearly as pretentious as it sounds. Notable songs included the purposefully flat “Restless” and something that I can’t remember the name of, but has been playing on loop in my head ever since. Check them out as and somehow get your hands on the album; I won’t ask how you do it.

Maria Taylor was, just as expected, amazing. If you have not heard her solo work, you have probably heard her voice. The Birmingham, Alabama native was part of the duo Azure Ray and collaborated with Conor Oberst on a couple Bright Eyes’ albums. She just released her third album, LadyLuck, which I downloaded from iTunes the day it came out. The album was just as good as her pervious efforts and her performance even better. You know the artists whose live shows could be mistaken for recordings? That’s Maria Taylor and then some. Her segment lasted for a little over an hour, and she mixed newer singles with arguably the best playlist from her previous albums. The best part of her music is that your mood dictates how you interpret the song. Regardless of the lyrics or the beat, each note gives a different feeling each time you listen to it. “Orchids” left me with chills and a yearning to light a roomful of candles. “Xanax,” and “Clean Getaway,” usually more heart-wrenching ballads, felt surprisingly upbeat. And her performance was definitely worth more than the $12.50 I paid for the ticket. The band even stopped halfway through “Song Beneath the Song” to sing a variation of “Happy Birthday” and present an unopened bottle of whiskey to the band’s drummer. Now that’s a good time.

-Natalee Ranii-Dropcho

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