Failed State

Being optimistic is an essential skill, but there’s also something to calling out things that just aren’t panning out. And that is the main sentiment of Failed State, the debut of singer/songwriter Weston Taylor, aka Ayo River. The Atlanta-based songwriter spent his college years in Athens, Ga., during which time he pursued rapping, even sending his rhymes to Lil Wayne while the New Orleans rapper was serving time at Rikers. After a change of heart, Taylor dove into fiction, submitting novels to publishing houses in hopes of a break. It didn’t happen, but what did come about was Taylor’s realization of a love for pop music and its ample space for a good narrative. His songs bear a strong resemblance to the melancholy rock of old Dave Bazan tunes (“Waking Up”), or even a little bit of the Death Cab for Cutie charm. Taylor’s not afraid to dwell on the pain of failing, as on the title track (“When was it I strayed/another way, another way?”), and as is sometimes the case, the freedom—and optimism—that comes after.