Alexis Taylor is a bit of a low-key legend in British pop music. As frontman and founding member of Hot Chip he’s toured the world, filled many a dance floor and been nominated for the Mercury Prize and a Grammy award, but what’s most impressive is the way he’s manoeuvred his solo career. Essentially used as a way to experiment and philander with his art, he’s strung together work of beauty, thoughtfulness and pensive retreat. His latest album, Beautiful Thing, sees the musician pursuing “Something subtle and elusive but ultimately quite profound and beautifully human.” It’s also the first time Taylor has made a solo album with a producer, that producer being Tim Goldsworthy, co-founder of Mo Wax and DFA Records and member of UNKLE.
Beautiful Thing is, first of all, notable in its scope. It paves the way for an audacious and courageous stride both in terms of Taylor’s diversity as a musician and as a songwriter. At one moment it’s thrilling, perfectly suitable for the dance-floor, and at another it’s a showcase for Taylor’s profound creativity. It’s a record that has a certain amount of poise, but also one that feels off-the-cuff and intuitive. It’s upbeat, yet moving, eccentric yet perfectly mainstream and a showcase of both the dark and light of life.
Opener ‘Dreaming Another Life’ is a wistful, erratic and uneven track that flits between the tropical beats of Hot Chip’s most mainstream work and Taylor’s more reflective solo work. In many ways, this seems to be a coming together of those two elements of Taylor’s impressive back catalogue. Take lead single ‘Beautiful Thing’, for instance. One of the more euphoric, upbeat tracks on the record, it sees Taylor fuse the extravagance of exploratory, frenzied disco with the exhilaration and momentum-building glee of acid house to conceive something dizzy and skittish. It’s a scurrying, busy composition with just the right amount of flair to ensure it’ll go on to become a live favourite.
The back-and-forth between ecstasy and melancholia continues with ‘Deep Cut’. A slower, meandering track, it’s a song that really brings Taylor’s voice to the fore. There’s a beautiful sensitivity to Taylor’s voice that cuts through everything else. Additionally, the best track on the record, ‘A Hit Song’, is a beautiful love song that is genuinely thoughtful and poignant, so much so, that its crescendo is reminiscent of a Pink Floyd ballad. The 60s nostalgia doesn’t stop there, either. Funkiest song on the record, ‘Oh Baby’, which could be a Hot Chip song in another life, essentially works as respite on the album, or a musical pick-me-up. Speaking of the song, Taylor stated that, “‘Oh Baby’ is an exuberant love song, with a nod to the music I love by the likes of Alex Chilton and Paul McCartney”, and it’s certainly got that unadorned innocence of a great McCartney single.
‘There’s Nothing to Hide’, ‘I Feel You’ and ‘Out of Time’ follow, which closes the album in a stunning, subtle and intellectual way. Beautiful Thing is an amalgamation of the happy and the sad; when it’s sad it is achingly so and when it’s happy its euphoria is mesmerising. Importantly, there’s a balance and Taylor straddles that with aplomb. Ultimately, this is a record that, when listening to it, you feel could be hugely important to a teenager’s musical development. Certainly Taylor’s best solo record, this feels like a journey into discovery.