Monday, March 19, 2007

Ladies' Night

I'm lucky to live about two short blocks from one of my favorite music venues in the city, and certainly my favorite in Brooklyn. But I hadn't been in a long time, so Saturday night I went over to see Jennifer O'Connor and Maria Taylor.

O'Connor released one of the best records of last year, and her short set was terrific. It helped that she sang the two songs I most wanted to hear -- "Exeter, Rhode Island" and "Sister," the latter of which would make my short list of the best songs from the past five years or so.

Here she is:

Unlike O'Connor, who I unreservedly recommend, I had complicated feelings about Maria Taylor going in, which only became more complicated after watching her play. Taylor's got a truly gorgeous voice, which she put to use in the band Azure Ray, and she's the girlfriend of Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, who I flat-out dislike on just about every possible level. She recently released her second solo record, Lynn Teeter Flower, and I've been listening to it a lot. Though her songs are spare, driven by the admirably subtle use of her pipes, she was backed by five musicians:

The songs sounded really good, but the aesthetic was troublesome. Taylor is very pretty, in a young Anjelica Houston kind of way, and she understands this. She sported a denim miniskirt and boots, and she had enough make-up on to be seen from space. Her brother played guitar, and her sister, Kate, played keyboards. Kate, who was "turning 22 at midnight," is impossibly cute, the kind of girl who could really drive a wedge between Dawson and Pacey. The Taylor sisters, who probably weigh 150 pounds combined, often coyly looked at the ground or stared off in a synchronized, dewey-eyed way, as if they could see the horizon past the club's walls. Like this:

And that's fine. I don't hold people's beauty against them, really, but I'm not crazy about performers who make it feel as though they're accompanied on stage by their beauty, like it's the seventh band member. In short, and unsurprisingly from someone who's attracted to Oberst, I got the sense that there was a serious need for getting over of self.

Maybe the simple fact is that Taylor is too eager to please (or be loved, or something; I'm not Freud) to be cool, in the good way. In fact, if she were ten years older, she'd be Sarah McLachlan. But I like McLachlan OK, and Taylor's cute, gauzy vibe isn't enough to get in the way of some excellent songs (check out "Clean Getaway" and "Small Part of Me," off the new album). The fact is, I'm a sucker for voices like hers -- the really, really pretty kind -- which makes it easier to overlook small sins of performance.


Blogger Natalia said...

"Sister" absolutely makes my list.

6:09 AM  

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