“I used to think that in order to write about love, something had to be wrong,” according to Kelcey Ayer.
It’s true that musical inspiration can come fast and furious in times of emotional upheaval, and some of the best albums to exist are breakup albums. But what happens when you in a happy, fulfilling relationship? Does songwriting inspiration just dry up and float away?
In Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, Ayer’s new album under solo moniker Jaws of Love., the frontman to Local Natives explores the turbulence and unavoidable misunderstandings that occur during even the most amazing of relationships.
He admits the obvious: “love is such a complicated thing.” But so are my feelings about Tasha Sits Close to the Piano.
It all begins with the luscious track “Jaws of Love.” Ayer lulls the listener into a moody reverie with repetitive piano rhythms and his soft, shy vocals. It feels like 2013’s Hummingbird is back to play, channeling a pure form of emotion into an easy-to-follow composition. It’s balanced and thought out, it shines with a polished glean. Not too much, not too little of anything. I want the whole album to be like this, but it’s not.
Ayer wrote many of the songs on this album in short bursts, sometimes within several days. But like any stream of consciousness creative work, letting one’s emotional intuition lead the way is a risky endeavor. You could end up with amazing, novel songs like “Jaws of Love.,” “Love Me Like I’m Gone.,” and “Before the Hurting Lands.” – or you can end up with the superfluous and superficial-leaning “Costa Rica.” and “Lake Tahoe..”
I wholeheartedly support embracing one’s nuances, and making music that is exactly what one is feeling.
Who am I to argue with the muse that strikes in the moment? To confront the way it happens naturally? I too, am guilty of making music in spontaneous flow, giving in to unrestrained creative desires at the keyboard. Yet I know that too much indulgence can be too much of a good thing, as often your first draft of anything creative is not your best. And while I wouldn’t change a thing about the piano or instrumentals, the album often feels like a first draft of lyrics and vocal takes. Maybe that was the goal – to not edit as much. But when it becomes distracting more often than not, that goal is not fully achieved.
For dedicated fans of Bon Iver, maybe this isn’t an issue.
But Ayer could be more careful of overdoing the dramatic, high-pitched vocals, as the border between a whiny timbre and mastering the moody, melancholy genre is a thin one with his sound. Is he the tiniest bit flat constantly? Do I have a low tolerance for this type of vocal genre? Maybe it’s both. The truth is, I want to love Ayer’s high range sound more than I actually do on this release. I fell in love with it on Local Natives’ “Mt. Washington,” “Columbia,” and “You & I,” and I don’t want to give that away. Not yet. As Ayer said himself, love is a complicated thing.
I love that the piano is a centerpiece on the album.
I love that the album was named by his wife, because their dog Tasha comes and lays down by Ayer every time he plays the piano at home. I love that Tasha is on the cover, and the tongue in cheek reference to Jaws of Love.. I love that Ayer didn’t really have a plan for these songs, and just made them. I love that he is expressing his most true musical self with the world.
But I only love four songs on the album. And I know that “having enough for an album,” usually means the band has to choose and whittle down from up to 20 or 30 songs. Could the LP have been an EP? Probably. Does it suffer because it’s an LP and not an EP? For me, yes. But am I excited to see where Ayer goes from here with Jaws of Love. regardless? Heck yes.
There has never been a better time to be in love with indie music and the musicians who create it. I write about and share what I discover because I find it difficult not to.