Before Taken by Savages had even released their self-titled debut, they were instigating change. The duo of Annie Choi and Joe Ziemba made drastic moves, relocating to New York and Austin respectively, and while we as listeners obviously aren’t privy to their inner thoughts, it’s not difficult to figure out why the album opens with “Shorts Authority” and its “You’re never going back” chorus. Taken by Savages stuff their debut full of the kind of forward momentum that comes from ditching a town that’s full of bad personal history, filtering all the anxiety and negative energy into a road ready document that’s as fitting for an escape as it is for a night of mischief and bad choices. Though, like much of the album, “Shorts Authority” is unabashedly cheeky (“bitch face all you want” is a perfect line regardless of context), it’s serious in concept and execution. It’s basically the album’s cold open – perfectly digestible on its own, but best heard as an introduction to the album’s sonic swagger and theme of moving on before it’s too late.
To make this even clearer, the album immediately turns it up a notch, with the aptly titled “1993,” a song that marries a Breeders-style bassline to Enon’s love of compressed drums and stealthily seductive synths. Ziemba may primarily be known for his time fronting the Like Young and his deeply personal solo effort Beaujolais, but his primal drumming and backing vocal work is a perfect fit for Choi’s aloof yet clever delivery and demeanor, all of which is at full force on “1993.” Its follow-up track, “Hawaiian Thigh,” even utilizes Ziemba’s drumming and backing vocals as its hook, as Ziemba shifts from a clackety cross stick beat to a stomping floor tom and snare rhythm, while cooing underneath Choi’s “Like a boss” mantra.
The album works best when the immediacy of the band is played up, like the juxtaposition of the minimalist percussion and mighty low end that drives “Under There” or the rhythmic back and forth that happens between the bass and drums on “Artist’s Impression of a Fishing Harbour.” The basic formula Taken By Savages utilize for their songs is highly effective, making their music easy to digest while also offering plenty of subtle details that become clearer through repeated listening.
That’s not to say that Taken by Savages aren’t afraid to play around with their sonic formula, though, as the stripped down rickety drum machine + counter melody breakdown of “Title Page” or the horror show organs that open closing track “Goats” can attest. Pretty much every track on the album is crammed with enough ideas and tangents to make them as filling as an epic except with none of the exhausting egomania, and the playfulness of Taken by Savages makes up much of the appeal of the band. More than anything, Choi and Ziemba’s debut as Taken by Savages makes it clear that the promise they make to themselves on “Shorts Authority” is worth holding on to; this is the kind of personal transition that makes it easy to never go back.
– Nick Hanover