Maia and the Pilots bill themselves as folk-pop-rock. The group of five utilizes a gentle, spacious sound that serves as a stage for Maia Pillot's stories of love and longing. If you can imagine the lyrical content of ‘50s pop songs—those that exist outside of specific places and times but are instantly relatable—combined with a more modern soft-rock sound, you've got a good idea of what Taking Off has to offer, though there are a few touches of flair sprinkled about to keep the listener on their toes.
The first two tracks do well to define the band's style. “I Would” has a slow pace paired with an unusual atmosphere, feeling something akin to flowing water; Pillot's vocals pull the listener in while rippling chords and soft splashes from cymbals create a constantly-shifting environment. Even the guitar riff during the song's last half-minute, rising and falling around Pillot's voice, gives off the impression of liquid, floating, being carried by some other force. “Come Home,” the second track, is more traditional in sound and falls closest to being a nostalgic throwback, seemingly being stylized after lounge jazz. The piano plays a prominent part here creating a fuller sound and Kane Basler's backing vocals play a big role in the song's warm tone.
The songs all carry a positive outlook, if not a positive feel. The only moment where any sort of trouble enters the equation is “Can't Hate You” where Pillot struggles (but can't bring herself) to hate a former lover. At points she acknowledges that her feelings will pass but still wishes she could embrace the anger expected of her. But it's not meant to be a serious moment of distress and I doubt anyone who hears it would interpret it as such. Between the music and the vocals it's too relaxed, too relaxing, to stir any genuine negativity in the listener, nor does Pillot make a ploy for sympathy by making herself appear helpless. She's just having a back-and-forth with herself and invited us to be the audience.
The album does feature one cover, and a rather surprising one: R. Kelly's “Ignition (Remix).” The song is played straight as a slow jam. On first listen I thought it might have been done for comedy's sake, but there's nothing in the performance to suggest that. The band put their full effort into it and the end result, strangely enough, fits in with the rest of the album in every way. Though some will be amused by the song's inclusion it does nothing to disrupt how everything plays together, something that couldn't be said if it were done just for a gag.
Taking Off should have no problem finding fans among a casual audience. There's no attempt to make plays toward the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum. That, I think, is the key to its appeal: it's lightweight enough to be enjoyed whenever but has enough care and depth to the music itself to avoid being bland and vapid.
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