EP Review: HAIL TAXI – “Apart For So Long”

A recent submission to my email inbox introduced me to a new EP release by a singer/songwriter from Alberta, Canada who goes by the unusual artistic name Hail Taxi. Intrigued, I checked out the artist and his music and was pleasantly surprised. Born Nathaniel Sutton, Hail Taxi plays indie folk-rock with touches of alt-country and pop, and occasionally meanders into electronica, giving his music a unique sound and style that sets him apart.

Sutton recorded a debut album Dramatic Scene in 2005, as well as a follow-up self-titled album, for Engineer Records under his given name. Both albums were worthy efforts with some pretty good songs (I especially like “Zombies Are Everywhere” and “Worldwide Catastrophe”) . After a five-year-long hiatus, Sutton decided to resume his solo music career under a totally new moniker Hail Taxi. He told me he “chose the name because it is intriguing on how it can be taken a couple different ways: 1. Hail Taxi – when people flag down a taxi for a ride. 2. Hail Taxi – all hail the taxi, salute the taxi!  I’ll leave it to the listener to decide on how the name should be interpreted.

hail-taxi-nathaniel

It makes perfect sense, then, that he would name his new EP Apart For So Long. The 5-track offering sounds more polished than his previous work, while still retaining his honest, straightforward folk-rock style. The first track is “Crystal Clear,” a catchy song about overcoming a painful break-up. The song has a wonderful acoustic guitar riff that contrasts with the darker lyrics: “I see you in my dreams, I see you in my mirror. I see you crystal clear, I see you in my pictures. I don’t know why but it’s so hard to move on.” Sutton sings the song in almost a monotone, at times whispering the lyrics, giving the song a haunting, ethereal vibe that perfectly fits the subject. The clever video uses some great footage from silent films, and the song on the video version starts off sounding like an old 78 being played on a Victrola.

Sutton’s signature plucky acoustic guitar and light percussion are nicely employed on the tracks “Northbound” and “We are Not Doomed…Yet.”  On “Northbound,” the gentle riff is accented by some scraping sound effects in the middle of the song, perhaps to convey the sense of traveling, and smooth electric guitar is introduced halfway through, adding complexity to the track. Sutton’s pleasing vocals reveal a vulnerability as he sings about telling his love interest how he feels: “Shaky hands, keep ’em steady. With a rose I’m standing. Come on hands, stop shaking. / You’re always in my thoughts, now I’ve been love shy. I like you a lot. / I’m glad we’ve got each other.

The poetic lyrics on “We Are Not Doomed…Yet” speak to reconnecting with a lost love that he’d hurt, and now wanting to start over and give it another go: “And I looked into your eyes, and you looked into mine. That’s when I knew we are not doomed…yet.  And now that you are on my side, I never want to say goodbye. We were apart for so long.

The EP contains two beautiful instrumental tracks. “Mount Robson” consists primarily of acoustic guitar, gentle drum and violin. The song is basically a simple repeating melody, but the haunting guitar riff is so compelling that the song feels more intense. The gorgeous, synth-heavy “An Untitled Ending,” has a very different sound from the other songs on the EP. I’m a sucker for lush synthesized sounds, and this song has them in spades. Some really excellent guitar work adds a dramatic flourish to the atmospheric track.

All in all, Apart For So Long is a well-crafted EP that makes for a pleasant listening experience. If you like what you hear, support Hail Taxi by following him on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribing to his YouTube channel. The EP, which drops today, November 4, can be purchased on iTunes, Bandcamp or other sites offering music for sale. You can also stream Sutton’s earlier music on Spotify here.

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