Rachel Taylor Brown’s new album, World So Sweet, takes it’s name from a popular Christian children’s prayer and many of her song titles (Intro (Sweetness On Earth), Mercy in Nebraska) echo that Christian influence. Even the name Rachel is biblical. So, there’s nothing about a quick glance at her new album that will prepare you for the kind of music Taylor Brown actually writes or performs, and even more disconcertingly, there’s nothing about a quick listen that will immediately catch you off guard or strike you as contrary to the assumptions you’ve made at first glance. You’ll be impressed by her complexity, sure. Maybe you expected something simpler or consistently melodic, and maybe you didn’t expect her second track, Sister Jean, to rock quite so hard.
Not until the eleventh, Mercy In Nebraska, does it becomes unmistakably apparent that something dark and complicated is afoot. She sings, “Bring your burdens to me, leave your worries, and comfort yourselves,” lyrics which seem innocuously Christ-like until she rages, “You gave us woman for fucking, but goddamn the price that we pay.”
Go back and listen through the tracks, Taylor Brown is tricky, and if you’re not paying close attention, some of her most incisive songs (How To Make A World Class Gymnast and Didymus The Twin v. The Divine Sparkler) actually sound like hymnals. You’ll discover that she is of that unique breed of pop-rock musician who has something substantial to say. Her sharp insight focuses on society and culture—especially children, and her most successful songs refer to real-life tragedies. Sister Jean, is actually the story of Janette Maples, a 15 year-old Oregon girl who eventually died of abuse and neglect, and Mercy In Nebraska is a cunning criticism of Nebraska’s Safe Haven Law, which disastrously permitted hundreds of parents to abandon their children to the state without consequences.
While there are a few less-than mind-blowing moments on this album, for example Big Mouth (a vague song about wanting someone to shut-up), most of World So Sweet will do what pop music generally can’t; make you think.