There’s about a million ways to discover new artists in Nashville. For blog writers, almost all our discoveries come through a plethora of emailed submissions. We usually first hear an artist’s final recording. It’s rare to experience a singer live before hearing the recordings. However, that’s not always the case. Fighting through the urge to continue in a state of winter hibernation, I recently struck out to a local writer’s round. As someone who only writes about music, writer’s rounds feel like they must be a serious source of anxiety for the performer: standing alone in front of a crowd that’s 1/3 fellow hungry songwriters waiting their turns accompanied by a heavy background din of beer cans hissing open, bottles clanking together, and idle chatter breaking the mood. It was in this environment, rather than through a sterile email, that I was introduced to the music of Nashville’s indie pop singer/songwriter Sarah Taylor.
The tricky thing about performing pop music at a writer’s round, even lo-fi indie pop where Taylor’s music gravitates, is that the genre is meant for polished production and a big musical punch. Performing solo or with minimal accompaniment can be dangerous for a pop singer as the energy may be lost or vocals may be exposed. With only her own keyboard playing in support Taylor ran through her time at the round as the room remained still—just listening. The crowd watched quietly because Taylor’s performance was filled with emotive vocals and lyrical honesty. She didn’t need a big pop splash to hold the everyone’s attention.
As it happens, Taylor was only a few days away from the release of her new EP, So L.A. The question then, is how would the songs that worked so well with minimal accompaniment stand up when bolder production was applied. With the So L.A. EP now released, we have our answer as Sarah Taylor has provided us with a modern pop album, full of vulnerable lyrics that feel just as at home wrapped in the full recording treatment.
At its heart, So L.A. is about love—all of love, the good and the bad. Title and opening track “So L.A.,” is a good introduction to Taylor’s use of storytelling in her songwriting. The opening track ironically finds us starting at the end of a relationship, as the lyrics tell of a former lover’s true colors being revealed and the singer finding the resolve to move on. Like many of the songs on the EP “So L.A” shares strong influences to numerous works from LANY as well as the more up-tempo tracks from Mokita.
Moving next to “ Back to You,” the album feels like it hits full stride, as Taylor spins her ode to rekindled love. Her vocal tenderness over a buoyant pop beat is in sharp contrast to the angst-filled performance of the title track. We then move to album highlight, “California Waves.” As Taylor sings about being swept away by mad infatuation, the vocals take on wistful air, as we can almost feel her daydreaming about the swirling passion. Here, the references to LANY and Mokita take a quick break as “California Waves” is a song that would feel right at home on a Chelsea Cutler-themed playlist. While “California Waves” may be the song that has been on repeat for me, album closer “Sleepwalking” is giving it strong competition. Featuring crisp vocals and a driving beat that’s made to nod along to, Taylor closes out So L.A. with Robyn-esque energy, while serving up an indictment to people who are too indecisive to appreciate the love they have in front of them.
With So L.A., Sarah Taylor provides us with a modern, approachable pop album with emotion-centered, storytelling lyrics. It’s full of tracks to enjoy as they are, recorded in their full indie pop production, or worth coming out of hibernation to hear live if you get a chance to catch up with Taylor around town or on tour.
Listen to So L.A. by Sarah Taylor now:
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