By Zachary Swickey
When your work is praised by Jay-Z and Trent Reznor, you know you’re onto something special. I’m talking about Brooklyn indie rockers Grizzly Bear, who’ve been charming us with their hypnotizing melodies for many years (they would slay as a barbershop quartet). The group’s last album, Veckatimest, found praise from all sorts of unexpected places, including Hova, who is an enthusiastic fan. After nearly two grueling years on the road, the guys were all ready to take a break. Well, everyone but member Chris Taylor, the group’s bassist and backup vocalist, who wasn’t very keen on the idea of taking time off and instead opted to craft a solo project with his newfound time. The result is CANT, a studio collaboration with George Lewis Jr., who we know and love from ’80s throwback act Twin Shadow.
Taylor first teased his solo abilities two years ago with the release of “Ghosts,” a non-album track, which sounded more like Grizzly Bear than CANT’s current material, but it was the singer’s first venture out on his own (if you don’t count his production duties with groups like Dirty Projectors or The Morning Benders). Taylor and his brothers in Grizzly Bear are critical favorites, but the man is no diva – he didn’t need or demand a fancy schmancy studio to hunker down in for recording, rather a simple big bedroom and vintage Yamaha synthesizers.
Taylor is not one of those artists who has been crafting and hoarding stockpiles of solo tunes since his youth. It’s not that he didn’t try, but he found fully completing a song to be a daunting task that he was never able to complete. With CANT, everything would be a fresh, new experience. In a bit of scratching each other’s back – Taylor produced Twin Shadow’s killer debut, Forget – Lewis worked with Taylor for two weeks on CANT’s debut before Lewis headed out on tour as Twin Shadow. With an impressive 75 percent of the album finished in the short span, Taylor went on to complete the remaining quarter on his own.
Last month, CANT’s hard work finally debuted – released as a joint venture through his own Terrible Records (which focuses on releasing 7” vinyl EPs) and iconic electronic label Warp. Appropriately dubbed Dreams Come True, the disc showcases the variety of Taylor’s multi-instrument abilities and producing prowess wonderfully. While some critics claim it sounds an awful lot like Grizzly Bear, I personally beg to differ (no acoustic guitar or harmonies to be found) – it’s an intimate effort in which the only comparison I find myself making is a male version of Björk. While his vocals may not be as quirky as hers, their studio aesthetic has a similar appeal.
At times, it sounds like Dreams Come True was recorded in a cold, dark cave as the vocals can sound distant, slightly distorted, or as if they’re longing for company. “Believe” is a surprisingly sexy tune with some grungy bass plucking adding juxtaposition to the bubbling synth as Taylor softly whispers in falsetto, “Things I haven’t shown you / you won’t believe.” Another perfect track to make babies to, “The Edge,” has warm synth notes reminiscent of the iconic score to “A Clockwork Orange” – the tune has a catchy rhythm that you’ll find yourself groovin’ along to. Standout track “Rises Silent” is a chaotic concoction of digital instruments swirling about before halting as Taylor quietly sings under his heavy breath, “You go anywhere you want to / I know you’ve left the man who found you.” The title track, “Dreams Come True” provides one of the most maniacal moments with a piercing alarm-like synth taking center stage during a “digital jam” akin to analog-friendly sounds on Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero.
In an interview with Pitchfork, Taylor stated, “I want to stay away from [producing] full-length albums because the last thing I want to do is let bands down.” Chris, we kindly ask that you reconsider, because it’s clear that you’re more than capable. For some of the freshest music out there, do yourself a favor and listen to CANT, because you’ll see the name over and over again on many critic’s “Top Albums of 2011” lists here in a couple months.