It’s been a long time since I last heard from San Francisco-based songwriter Blake Henderson and his solo project TaughtMe. Back then, in 2005, he released ‘ReadyToGoUnder’, an album whose themes of childhood were matched by a boyish enthusiasm for experimentation. Eight years on and – since his new album is named ‘Am I Old?’ – one can assume the transformation from child to adult has reached the completely opposite end of the age spectrum.
There are certainly shades of vaudeville about the beginning to this record. The opening selections are experimental and sometimes theatrical in nature. For example, using a background jazz/waltz template, ‘Into The Thicket’ stumbles and teeters attractively whilst Henderson emotes but the first three tracks also seem rather tentative in their approach. Henderson is a frontman with a voice that lingers forever on the threshold of tears and he is best employed when he pours out those emotions. Thankfully, this is more evident later on.
The title track turns out to be the first main draw. It builds slowly with minimal backing; allowing Henderson full rein to release his demons. For ‘Really That Cute’ both the melody and Henderson himself seem to have been injected with optimism and this languid but more uptempo song is a welcome gear shift after a largely morose opening. So too are ‘The Truth (Really?) Every Time’ and ‘Boys You Don’t Love Me To Be’; delicate yet bright and colourful songs which emphasise the commercial appeal of TaughtMe’s material.
So whilst many albums tend to be front-loaded, ‘Am I Old?’ improves as the story progresses. If you’re looking for standard verse/chorus structure, you would be best advised to look elsewhere but this album’s strength lies in its emotional scars and its challenging arrangements and when Henderson is in full voice, he really is a joy to behold.
Merz, Antony And The Johnsons