Album Review: Taylor Locke – Time Stands Still

By on Tuesday, 24th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Taylor Locke Time Stands Still coverLos Angeles native and former Rooney lead guitarist Taylor Locke’s first solo album ‘Time Stands Still’ finds Locke somewhat at odds with his newly-appointed singer/songwriter status. After spending 10 years with Rooney and two more with his side project Taylor Locke and the Roughs, he is a bit uncomfortable working outside the context of a band, as he explains in the press release for ‘Time Stands Still’: “I think the term ‘singer/songwriter’ sadly evokes a white guy in a coffee shop strumming a fucking G-chord all day. I think this record sounds more like a band record…the band just takes occasional smoke breaks.”

True to Locke’s description, the album alternates between sparsely arranged acoustic ballads and the West Coast guitar rock sound of acts like Jackson Browne or Dawes. In fact, as I listened to ‘Time Stands Still’, I was strongly reminded of Dawes, particularly by the similarity between Locke’s singing voice and that of Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith. While not one of my favorite bands, Dawes do have their moments of brilliance, and so it is with Taylor Locke as well.

One of those brilliant moments is the opening track to ‘Time Stands Still’, ‘Burbank Woman’. It’s another one in a long and timeworn list of songs about the contradictions of the feminine mystique, but its lyrics manage to sidestep the usual clichés, as in the chorus: “she knew something that she didn’t say / deep in her heart there was a valley and no freeway to get there / never mind the miles of my persistence / she was gonna keep me at a distance”.

Unfortunately, those clichés catch up with Locke before the album progresses much further. Second track ‘The Game’ is an extended gambling metaphor, using stale poker jargon to describe a turbulent romance. Trite lyrics also plague the album’s first single ‘Running Away From Love’, whose bland musical arrangement and backing vocals would make qualify it as perfect material for the muzak in a department store.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/iWMa6JKyA_w[/youtube]

But just when it seems like the album has taken a nosedive into the banal, Locke comes charging back with a groovy mix of guitar and synths behind the catchy chorus to ‘So Long’. Even better is the current single ‘Call Me Kuchu’, where Locke finds a rougher vocal tone to match the crunchy guitars and gritty lyrics. The call and response between voices in the chorus creates a haunting echo that lingers long after the song is over.

The second half of the album leans more heavily on Locke’s singer/songwriter abilities, and the lyrics to title track ‘Time Stands Still’ undoubtedly refer to his new venture: “it’s late in the game for fanning the flame / the wind is gonna blow out anyway / walk off the stage, turn a new page / call it what you will, time stands still”. Those words became even more meaningful recently, with the passing of the track’s co-writer Kim Fowley. Locke describes Fowley as the “Rock ‘n Roll Grandpa” who talked him into making a solo album in the first place: “The song reveals his sensitive, introspective side, that I count myself among the lucky few to have known.” With that possibly in mind, Locke allows his unadorned vocal line to take center stage over the vaguely gospel harmonies in the keyboards, which are delicately decorated by acoustic guitar and ringing percussion.

Taking a slightly different direction, ‘The Art of Moving On’ is once again purely in the singer/songwriter vein, but its cynical lyrics are contradicted by the forward momentum of the acoustic guitar melody. The finger-picked acoustic guitar rhythms and minor key harmonies in final track ‘No Dice’ are surprisingly reminiscent of Spanish art song, ending the album on a pleasantly unexpected note of newly piqued interest.

Ultimately, the singer/songwriter tracks on ‘Time Stands Still’ suffer slightly from Locke’s vocal delivery, which unfortunately isn’t one of the album’s strongest features. His singing works best in the bolder electric guitar arrangements, where the instrumental colour can take precedence over the vocals. Still, for an initial foray into solo performing, Taylor Locke has made a solid effort here, and one worth building upon.

6.5/10

Taylor Locke’s solo debut album ‘Time Stands Still’ is out now on Lojinx Records. Click here for a free download of its title track.

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