More Maria Taylor: Was ‘Bad Idea?’ a bad idea? Critics disagree; Phantogram tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm October 27, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

An addendum to yesterday’s Maria Taylor interview… A Lazy-i reader commented that s/he wasn’t aware that Taylor’s new album, Overlook, was so divisive. As I told Taylor during the interview, I’ve never seen such polarity from review to review for an album. Or for that matter, for a specific song.

The song in question is “Bad Idea?” a charming little acoustic guitar rag in the middle of the album that features Taylor cooing the line, “What if I turned 49 / With no husband in mind / Well I guess that ‘s just a glitch in my design.” It’s a summertime back-porch lullaby with an authentic old-time feel, very much in the same vein as “Speak Easy,” from 11:11. But judging from the reviews, you’d think Taylor was singing something as controversial as a protest song.

For example, Triangle Music blogspot loved the track, saying in its review: “In fact ‘Bad Idea’ is so much better than the rest of Overlook it makes me wonder why Taylor didn’t include more purely Americana songs on the album.” Americana?

Meanwhile, our old friends at PopMatters.com would love to see the song buried for all eternity. From their review: “The best track on the record is followed by the worst track on the album. ‘Bad Idea?’ is an annoying grassroots ripoff, with a bored Taylor singing in such a way as if to teach you a lesson. You can just picture her wagging finger. The chorus is awful and will stay in your head for weeks and weeks until you’d rather pierce your eye just to switch focus.

I read the reviews to Taylor during our interview, and we both laughed. “That’s why I don’t usually read reviews,” she said. “I don’t trust them, they’re so contradictory. I’m always wondering if this person (writing it) is a musician. Why would I trust them over what friends think? It doesn’t influence the way I do things at all. It doesn’t make a difference.”

Decide for yourself. Download the track for free here at Paste.com. My take: The song clearly stands out on the record, and whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your ability to appreciate this style of music. I asked Taylor if she ever considered doing an entire album of traditional-style ballads that would mix remakes of old standards with new material done in a similar style.

She said the thought has crossed her mind. “That song was done entirely live,” she said. “I had dad on the mandolin, my brother on banjo, two friends on guitars, a standup bass. We all stood in a circle and sung it live. It was so much fun and it only took an hour. I’ve thought of doing a whole record of songs in that vein, live, with those kinds of instruments and touring in seated theaters with everyone playing in a circle.”

Sounds like a good time to me, but we won’t be seeing that Sunday night at Slowdown when Taylor and her band (and family) perform with another act that has a sort-of old-time feel, Big Harp. Get your tickets now

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Phantogram is a self-proclaimed “psych pop” duo from Saratoga Springs, New York, whose full-length debut, Eyelid Movies, was released on Barsuk in 2010.  Pitchfork gave the disc a 7.5 (here), calling it “a sumptuous, seductive record, easy to let fall into the background, sure, but easier still to fall into.” Check out the opening track, “Mouthful of Diamonds,” below:

See how the song sounds played live, when Phantogram plays tonight at The Waiting Room with Reptar. $14, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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