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Review: Maria Taylor, 'In The Next Life'

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released.

Maria Taylor, <em>In The Next Life</em>.
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Maria Taylor, In The Next Life.

Maria Taylor's career runs through four albums with the band Azure Ray, a bunch of EPs and singles, and six full-length solo records, the latest of which she's releasing herself. She's also relatively newly married with two young children, so she's bound to be in a reflective state of mind. To process it all, she's made perhaps her warmest and most affecting album, In The Next Life, and filled it with gorgeous, touching songs about family, legacy, fear and the pursuit of contentment.

Several song titles hint at the joys she's already found — "A Good Life," "Home," "There's Only Now" — but Taylor's songwriting retains her gift for capturing both light and shadows. In "It Will Find Me," she ponders hanging up her guitar as responsibilities encroach, but the title also implies that our impulses and dreams have ways of coming back around even as life drowns them out. Elsewhere, the swoonily propulsive "If Only" looks at devotion and hope through the prism of second chances — even if they take place "in the next life."

Throughout these 10 bittersweet songs, Taylor draws support from familiar friends and collaborators, including Joshua Radin, Nik Freitas, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and others. Together, they help Taylor sum up the best of where her life and music have taken her. Here's hoping she never follows through on that threat to hang up her guitar, because she's got way too many more chapters left to write.

In The Next Life is out Dec. 9 on Flower Moon Records.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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