New York native Taali released her first album I Am Here in 2019. In the four years since she has been hard at work creating music that not only speaks volumes about her life and Jewish heritage but also speaks beautifully to those who give her work a well-deserved listen. Now, Taali is back with her second full-length studio album—the self-titled taali.
According to Taali, the concept behind her latest album was to move away from her previous projects’ semi-autobiographical, emotion-laden lyrics and to focus on not writing about herself. Under her birth name, Talia Billig, Taali is a veteran lyricist, having collaborated with artists such as Moby, Aloe Blacc, and José James. Drawing on all her songwriting experience for the production of taali, she imagined herself sitting down in the office for another collab, except this time for herself. The result is a powerful 13-song message about heartache, desire, self-discovery, and liberation.
Taali, along with Grammy-nominated co-producer Brian Bender (who also happened to have co-founded Taali’s record label Rainbow Blonde Records with José James), decided to move away musically from I Am Here’s electronic style. Instead, taali features a more stripped-back sound, relying on the extensive piano work and lush vocals of Taali’s previous demos. The vocals have been triple-tracked, letting Taali’s words envelop the listener, which creates a truly ethereal and intimate experience. It’s something that works beautifully to transport you to another place. While Taali’s voice and piano playing take centre stage on the album, credit should also be given to Grammy-winning bassist Ben Williams and drummer Dustin Kaufman. Their rhythmic bass and dynamic drum styles combine to contribute to the stunning sonic landscape.
Taali has previously stated that lyrics are the most important part of her compositions, and that mentality was still the order of the day for her latest album. This is especially evident in taali’s singles. The first, ‘It Comes for You’, is a dark, synth-driven track that musically deviates from the rest of the album’s uplifting sound. The catchy keyboard melody provides a bleakness that compliments the lyrics perfectly. The words explore the gut-wrenching impact of trauma and the psychological damage it can cause. It’s refreshing to hear such a powerful message told in a truly relatable way, rather than through pure introspection.
The much more upbeat, pop-derived ‘Anywhere’ explores the theme of rediscovering one’s self. It’s a song full of optimism—a discreet tale of a part of Taali’s own life told in a way that motivates and inspires. And in that respect, ‘Anywhere’ represents taali’s ultimate message, which reassures each one of us that we can reflect and make positive changes, even if those changes seem scary.
Taali has stated her desire to avoid writing about the topic of the day, COVID, but even so, its influence has leaked a little into taali’s theme. The intro, ‘Did We Die?’ is a short instrumental featuring strings from Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Taali spent time living in Amsterdam during the album’s production). Then the closing track, ‘Did We Survive?’, talks openly about the pandemic, recalling the grim reality of what was happening to communities across the globe. Yet, while the lyrics are dark, the song features an uplifting melody that projects hope and a sense of healing.
Listeners who stick taali on as a background soundtrack for their daily activities may question the lack of variation in its sound. ‘It Comes for You’ is the only track that jumps out as being sonically different, which contrasts with Taali’s more varied debut album. However, those who give taali the attention it deserves will find a carefully crafted album, packed with intent and meaning. From the gritty, spatial vocals to the dirty synth sounds, there’s a lot about the music to be enjoyed. Additionally, the album’s crystal-clear concept is inspirational and encourages us to look within ourselves and become a part of the world around us.
Excellent re view. Helpful in understanding an artists aims and providing listening cues.