When Taylor sings the chorus from "Time Lapse Lifeline," which goes "Though we dreamed a life / It was just like that / Was just like that / And just like that / And just like that / It's done," she does it without a sense of hesitancy or pain, but with resolve and acknowledgment and finally, relief. "I'm a realist," she said of the song's meaning. "You can make something great out of any shitty situation."
She's certainly made something great out of Ladyluck. Released earlier this month on Canadian label Nettwerk (home to Sarah McLachlan), it's the most tuneful, pop-oriented record of her career. For the album, recording sessions were split between Andy LeMaster's Athens studio and Mike Mogis's ARC studios in Omaha, with a couple songs recorded in Los Angeles. Taylor has performed with LeMaster in his band, Now It's Overhead, and with Mogis in Bright Eyes.
"I knew that I wanted to work with both of them," Taylor said. "It's fun for me to record with people that I'm really comfortable with. I like to go back and record in places where I've lived before, too, so there's that element on my record."
For one of the Athens sessions, she recruited old friend Michael Stipe, who in addition to singing helped her write album closer "Cartoons and Forever Plans." The song features a call-and-response verse that asks, "Did you know?" followed by a series of question enders, such as "Did you know / The first time you were in my sight? / And did you know / That look that I threw at you?"
"I had this song for two months and needed to fill in the blanks, but was too intimidated," Taylor said. "(Stipe) said, 'Do you want me to help you with the lyrics?' and I was like, 'Hell yes.' So we worked on it until 6 a.m. The sun was coming up and he was still writing lyrics. He kept changing them until the day he recorded his part."
After the album was finished, Taylor decided to make another change by releasing it on Nettwerk instead of Saddle Creek Records, her label since the Azure Ray days. "I felt it was the perfect time (to make the change)," she said. "First of all, I've been managed by Nettwerk for a few years. I got to know a lot of people on the label end of things. I was curious what the difference would be. The deal is the same 50/50 split. Hopefully I'll work with Saddle Creek again; hopefully there's no bad blood there. I love all of them so much."
In fact, Taylor said she has a major project planned with Saddle Creek in the near future. Late last year Taylor and Orenda Fink reunited as Azure Ray for a performance at The Troubadour in Los Angeles -- their first together since the summer of 2005.
"We just for the hell of it decided to play that show in LA. It was a reason for Orenda to come out and visit," Taylor said. "She and Todd moved out there and are just walking distance from my place, so we spend a lot of time together. We never said we were breaking up."
In fact, the duo plan on making a new Azure Ray album that Taylor said will hopefully be released on Saddle Creek. "We still have to write 11 or 12 songs and record them," she said.
But for now, the focus is on her new album and tour, with a band that includes drummer Mike Shackelford, bassist Nate Nelson, guitarist Tod Wisenbaker (also in Whispertown 2000) and Nebraska native Craig Reier on keyboards, who will be getting in married in Lincoln the day after the Omaha show. "His wife let him go on this whole tour and not have to deal with any of the wedding stuff," Taylor said, laughing. "He's going to walk in and get married and fly back and only miss two shows."
Taylor said the tour is a chance to return to the city that she called home for so many years. "I'm excited to come back," she said. "I still have some of my best friends in the world out there."
Published in The Omaha Reader April 22, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.