Published Jun 10, 2016When Hot Chip lead vocalist Alexis Taylor sits down at a grand piano (a German made Blüthner, to be precise) with nothing else but a microphone, it's bound to be a beautiful thing, and so it is: the succinctly titled Piano is gentle, pretty and quiet, almost as if Taylor hesitated to hit record. Be thankful that he did, though: Piano is a doozy.
Taylor has one of the most beautiful male voices in modern pop music — soft, vulnerable, and just a delight to listen to. Paired with his simple, sparse touches on the black and ivories here, it's an emotive experience, melancholic and quite intimate.
It's not the most thrilling of listens, but then, that's not Piano's point. The album may not move swiftly (in fact, it's heavy on the heartbreak and heartstring tugging), but it will certainly move the listener to feelings. A sense of loss is evident throughout — a dear friend of Taylor's passed during the piecing together of this record — as are moments of reflection upon lost love, regret, remorse and the idea of moving forward. Each song here is a sigh, simple and immediate and soul-baring, and the little fumbles Taylor has with his piano playing (not to mention the hesitation on tunes like "Lonely Vagabond") add to the notion of this being a pure and spontaneous execution.
There's also an unshakeable gospel theme, from the obvious "Crying in the Chapel," a tune that was a success for Elvis Presley, to the references to religion scattered throughout. "I Never Lock That Door" houses the most memorable melody, and wouldn't feel out of place in a church/gospel songbook. Taylor's take on Crystal Gayle's "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" (how terrific is that wording?) is an absolute heart-wrencher, and when he sings "if something is fixed, then I don't exist" in "Repair Man," it just might destroy you.
Piano's 42 minutes feels a lot longer than it is (song after song follows a similar structure and has little else but Taylor's voice and a piano), but it's incredibly affecting in small doses and, if you'll let it, just might turn your brown eyes blue. (Moshi Moshi)