Maria Taylor could write the next Great American Novel; she could become the top selling artist of all time, or she could find a cure for cancer, and it seems likely that she’d still be known to a handful of folks out there as merely one of the people who used to hang around with Conor Oberst all the time. Worse fates have been suffered, obviously, but you’ve got to assume Taylor believes she’s cut out for more. Taking a break from Azure Ray, the folk-pop duo she played in with Orenda Fink, was a good start. They were inextricably linked to Bright Eyes, thanks to a never-ending stream of joint tour dates and guest appearances. When she released her solo debut, 11:11 back in 2005, it started to look like she was really ready to strike out on her own, to ditch the decidedly Veronica Mars vibe she’d rocked for so long. Critics responded favorably, and she became the go-to back-up singer for everyone from Moby to Eric Bachmann. The record was fine, but you still got the feeling people were more interested in singing with her than in actually listening to her.
It’s not entirely clear that her new album will change any of that, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Lynn TeeterFlower was written during downtimes on the 11:11 tour, but thankfully it’s mostly lacking the “life on the road is so hard” themes that often bog down such records. Instead, we get a series of meditations on lost love and missed opportunities, set against a more traditional rock background than on her debut. The keyboards and fey atmospherics are less prominent this time around, allowing more attention to be paid to the vocal melodies, which really are the album’s saving grace. If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that Taylor’s voice, while undeniably pretty, is, for the most part, characterless. There’s not much in the way of dynamics, and her delivery is a tad too relaxed to have any lasting impact.