Saddle Creek veteran artist Maria Taylor strives for a lush and rootsy sound on her fourth full-length album, Overlook, but lands somewhere in Lilith Fair territory. A member of Azure Ray and Now It’s Overhead, in addition to being an occasional Bright Eyes collaborator, Taylor has shown her staying power in the Saddle Creek family for several years. However, her solo efforts are often lackluster, coming up just short of usual Azure Ray wonder and Oberst-collaborative gold. Sadly, Overlook seems perfectly fit for what would appear if a listener typed “sad chick music” into the Pandora search field. Taylor’s whispery, timid voice sounds restrained on nearly every track. Coupled with repetitive lyrics and monotonous rhythms, Overlook is a yawn-inducing piece.
Overlook was born out of a yearlong songwriting drought and break from Azure Ray, which is apparent. Songs that aren’t monotonous feel short and unfinished, such as “Happenstance” and closer “Along for the Ride”. “Matador” is the strongest point on the album, as it veers into a wild tangle of instruments at its apex, using vocal echoes, wild guitars, and innovative percussion. But the reprieve of unique material is short-lived, as the remainder of Overlook offers lovesick laments and breakup diary entries paired with bedroom acoustics.
“Bad Idea?” follows the regrets and worries of a single woman in the modern age as Taylor croons, “What if I turn 59 with no child of mine, well I guess there’s just a glitch in my design.” That lyric alone is enough to make everyone short of the adoring fans cringe.
On “This Could Take a Lifetime”, Taylor whines, “I’ve been waitin’ at the Greyhound station, I’ve been tryin’ to find someone like you, but I never do.” The TV drama market could put this album to great use, as Overlook would serve as perfect backing for a scene of scripted unrequited love or some cheesy-ethereal medical drama love. Lesson learned? Taylor should stick to her Azure Ray roots.