For every singer-songwriter who traffics in hushed, poignant melodies and writes naked and self-effacing lyrics, the specter of Elliott Smith looms large. The dearly-departed poet laureate of beautiful and bedeviling ballads died nearly two decades ago, but his influence and impact can still be felt with every new troubadour who has the courage to air their shortcomings.
Taylor Vick, the Oakland-based artist who records as Boy Scouts, makes the same kind of melancholy and elegiac music that was Smith’s specialty. While there are traces of contemporary artists like Hand Habits, Cass McCombs, and Angel Olsen in Boy Scouts, the hauntingly direct and gorgeously composed songs that make up her upcoming album, Wayfinder, contain all the classic hallmarks of Smith above all else. While comparisons to Elliot Smith are made often and with a certain amount of recklessness, Vick is the rare artist who truly deserves those plaudits.
On the first single from Wayfinder, “That’s Life Honey,” Vick employs the same plinking piano movements that were the driving force behind Smith’s XO, and her breathy, cooed delivery is reminiscent of the late-night requiems found on Either/Or. Lyrically, Vick shares Smith’s brutally honest approach to songwriting, lamenting on “That’s Life Honey,” that she’s the ”Master of inexplicable shame/Write it down to rewire my brain.” Throughout Wayfinder, which is being released on Friday through ANTI- Records, Vick is unafraid to tackle enormous, existential issues of life, death, belonging, doubt and acceptance.
Her latest single, “A Lot To Ask,” is a grooving acoustic number impelled by a soft bassline and Vick’s emotive vocals. The song is again riddled with painful introspection, as Vick admits that being herself is “a lot to ask.”
While Vick has obvious links to Smith, it’s important to note that she’s a formidable and unique artist who is crafting out her own memorable identity. A careful (and at times playful) crafter of lyrics, Vick has a way of capturing the wry nature of today’s times, when you can’t help but laugh at all of life’s follies. Wayfinder is the result of an ambitious singer-songwriter unafraid to pursue the highest peaks of her genre.