Taller Children, by Brooklyn trio Elizabeth and the Catapult, sounds like a much larger band recorded it. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s apparent that the band put in a lot of effort at the studio to give Elizabeth Ziman’s smart lyrics their due, but there is such a thing as gilding the lily. Ziman’s lines and luminous voice are perfectly capable of carrying the album. The various effects applied to Taller Children create an artifice that prevents them from resonating. Only when the accoutrements fall away do Elizabeth and the Catapult start to shine.
Many of the songs on Taller Children toy with this concept at the beginning, showcasing Ziman singing over minimal accompaniment. Given the varied instrumentation and the richness of Ziman’s tone, these passages are among the most enjoyable on the album. Given that Elizabeth and the Catapult is a band, it’s unrealistic to expect that the whole album be a showcase for the singer, and there are some parts of the album where the songs build organically to include the other members of the group. Where Taller Children goes astray are the many occurrences where too many effects are sandwiched in with the musicians. Too often there are horn parts, suspiciously mechanical handclaps, and string parts that distract from the finished product.
Far more satisfying is “Just in Time,” the song that finishes the album. Here, the production is kept to a minimum and Ziman’s voice is kept squarely as the focus of the song. Given the quality of her vocal instrument and the deftness with which Ziman blends it with the piano line, there is an indication of what Taller Children could have been had someone decided during the recording process that less was, in fact more.
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