Paul “Snoflake” Taylor Share It

[Makeshift Music; 2009]

Styles: singer/songwriter, indie rock, indie pop
Others: Of Montreal, Sufjan Stevens, Amy LaVere

There's a lot to admire about the second album from solo artist Paul "Snoflake" Taylor, in particular his willingness to take on nearly all instrumental, compositional, and vocal duties, and his overt eclecticism, moving from straight-up rock to subdued bossa nova within the first two tracks. However, these admirable qualities quickly become liabilities when one begins to pay attention to the album. Done in a sort of mid-fi mode, these definitely aren't bedroom recordings, but there's a looseness that pervades and undercuts most every track. The genre-hopping only adds to the trouble, making the tracks seem more like trial runs than full-fledged compositions. This comes, at least to some extent, through the cheesiness of the instrumental timbres used to create the genre atmospherics, with Taylor crafting sounds (like the guitar on "Perfect Reflection") that seem resurrected from some early ’80s studio where Star Search contestants would cut their demos.

For some, this might be charming, but for an artist with already established credentials (he plays in Amy LaVere's band and several other Memphis outfits) and a clear amount of musical acumen, I can't help but feel cheated. Nothing quite gels. The rock of "Just Can't Wait That Long Anymore" plods along in such a way that it's hard to imagine anyone nominating it as the opening track. "Candle" seems like a weak stab at ’80s dance pop, sounding like late-period Dennis Wilson fronting a Miami Sound Machine cover band. Of course, these "failures" could be fantastic fun in the right hands -- I'm thinking of bands like Ween or more recently Flight of the Conchords, who use restless creative spirit and amateurish sheen intentionally and for admittedly comic purposes. The difference here is that Snoflake seems to take his project seriously, which makes the result more tragic than comic.

Then again, there are some affectations that might indicate a playful spirit — the incorporation of a ‘charmingly’ misspelled nickname and the Daniel Johnston-esque, childlike cover art, to name the immediately obvious. But while Taylor is surely a fun-loving guy, his lyrics feel overly earnest and the execution of the songs too haphazard. Clearly, there's talent here, and if more finely honed or taken a bit more lightly, it could result in something much more satisfying.

1. Just Can't Wait That Long Anymore
2. Share It
3. Candle
4. Not Still Lost in TN
5. Learning Curve
6. Make Your Echoes Go Away
7. Relentless
8. Perfect Reflection
9. Rebeaver

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