As the diminutive, bespectacled frontman of UK electronic band Hot Chip, Alexis Taylor’s voice is synonymous with some of the country’s most cherished dance hits from a dozen or so years ago. However, since his debut solo album release Rubbed Out in 2008, Taylor has evinced a private, sensitive and tender-hearted world using his first choice of instrument, keyboards.
New album Beautiful Thing is an honest, homespun paean to music itself. Engaging with an outside producer on solo work for the first time, Taylor has allowed DFA Records’ Tim Goldsworthy to accessorise his sentiments and words and lend a contemporary edge to the record.
Opening the record, Dreaming Another Life, and the title track Beautiful Thing both tap into the leftfield styling which Taylor likes to apply, using balmy synths and uplifting house sounds to execute maximal dreamscapes.
If the slow and soulful groove of Deep Cut doesn’t sedate one’s pulse, it is the sanctified hymns celebrating music on the record which are the true gemstones in Taylor’s output.
Using stripped-down electronica, the delicious Roll On Blank Tapes observes that “drum machines have no soul”, while using disparate beats and synthesised lungs. Similarly, a tempered bassline pulsing beneath piano on the elegant A Hit Song questions formulas and prototypes for writing successful melodies. Its reflective tone is a mainstay throughout much of Beautiful Thing, and appears to be where Taylor’s heart is currently at. Beneath emotive synths and the top end of an xylophone, a pure vocal on There’s Nothing To Hide repeats two lines over: “There’s nothing to hide in a song / there’s nothing to know outside this song”. Taylor is a man of few words, but very many colours.
However, The Doors-with-hiccups kooky organs on Suspicious Of Me and lazy lyrics on Oh Baby quickly grate, without creating the intended variety between the slower songs. It is only on closing track Out Of Time where the record is rescued once more with its gentle strings and reflective piano tone. Interestingly, the same strained chord-vibrations can be heard on the beautiful Battery In Your Leg, the closing track of Blur’s Think Tank (2002), an album that coincidentally also features a track called Out Of Time.
The message from this album is music: both a beauty and a beast.