Album Review: III by Chair Model

Chair Model continues a winning streak of commercial pop with impeccable production and stellar vocals.

A message from the Make Oklahoma Weirder team: this article was originally written by Evan Jarvicks in 2019 and is being released as part of MOW’s “VVeirder VVinter Vault” of 2023.

In just a couple of years, Taylor Johnson has become OKC’s foremost whiz of commercial music production. Hot on the heels of 2018’s Chair Model debut (which was a Big 50 pick), 2019 saw new EPs from that project and two new collaborative duos, King Rose and Goldenface, each of which is a flashy Taylor Johnson project. They all sound rather excellent, and they all sound quite the same.

Alas, that is a downside of commercial music. The broader the audience, the more commonplace the formula. Music can be mind-blowingly good, but when there is an abundance of it, it becomes less special. This is where Chair Model edges ahead of its peers with an X factor named Abbey Road.

Oklahoma City-based band Chair Model

On its latest release, III, Chair Model is as dazzling as ever. Crispy pop jams get the party going with impeccable production and fun-loving arrangements. Crunchy guitars lend a rowdy edge to funky bass lines, punchy drums, and lighthearted percussion garnishments. Every song has an identity, though few of them are fully explored due to runtime constraints. In hit-making, brevity is the law of the land, and choruses reign supreme. Given these conditions, Chair Model makes the most of it.

If the arrangements set the scene for the party, then singer Abbey Road is the party. Whether she’s sporting a feisty demeanor on “Come On”, breathing honey-sweet sighs on “BFF”, or pouting lips on “Coconut”, she brings a big personality to these songs. Her performances help highlight and broaden the EP’s stylistic diversity and elevate the songs from catchy to infectious. They are some of the best vocals of the year.

Of course, Chair Model is a team effort. No single aspect of III could carry the album alone. Everyone brings a seasoned spread of strengths to the studio, and it shows. In another timeline, maybe the trio is making music for the sake of art rather than commercial viability, but that’s also a timeline where the group is probably finding less success.

For now, Chair Model remains a project that puts out albums as nothing more than umbrella collections of singles (hence their indistinct album titles). That’s completely fine and valid. If anything, it speaks to the intuition of Taylor Johnson that the music with which he involves himself consistently appeals to music obsessives and casual listeners alike. He has tapped into something pretty spectacular with this approach to studio work, and Chair Model continues to be the flagship model with III.

aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.

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