Sometimes an artist’s third record becomes known as the “departure point,” and this seems to be the case with Taylor Upsahl’s stunning Unfamiliar Light EP. It turns in a more alternative direction, while not entirely leaving the singer/songwriter’s signature behind. On this record, Taylor Upsahl goes simply by Upsahl and is backed by a full band featuring Dale Goodman, Anthony Germinaro, Rachel Rinsema, Dylan Spitler and Ryan Upsahl.
The stunning vocals are about the only familiar thing here. Otherwise, it’s the intoxicating rhythms and dizzying guitar that explodes from “Digital Papers” that lets you know that Upsahl is exerting creative vision. “Everlasting Trip” has an almost surf-rock vibe to it, with a Spector wall of sound effect at work here. “XVII” is a serious piano instrumental with classical overtones throughout its 84 seconds, the title celebrating Upsahl’s age. It leads into the cleverly titled “Good News for Bad People,” the centerpiece of the record and one of its finest compositions. Between the mesmerizing piano line and Upsahl’s easy-on-the-soul vocals, it’s easy to lose your place in time during this one.
“Miss Leader” is a softer, acoustic number and a little more familiar territory for Upsahl’s voice. “Rotations” picks up the pace with a guitar line that Johnny Marr might be jealous of, even though it has a bit of Southwestern twang to it. There is an Arizona highway vibe built into this tune, which should probably be licensed to David Lynch immediately. The EP finishes with “Overdrive,” a quirky acoustic number, but with a haunting arrangement. This record is a turning point for Upsahl, and it will be interesting to see what’s next.