Brian Shapiro Band is Back with New Album
No one can accuse Brian Shapiro’s songwriting of playing it safe. The Brian Shapiro Band’s 2021 release All That We See stood out from the pack for several reasons but loom larger than others. He marries a zest for overturning listeners’ expectations with an obvious command of fundamentals that results in fresh and personable material. It operates under its own terms without ever pushing listeners away.
His new album, however, may divide opinion. The same ability to balance a desire for challenging his audience with Songwriting 101 basics is still here, but there’s also something else. Shapiro walks out further on the ledge than ever before and a couple of songs, in particular, are tightrope walks. They won’t appeal to anyone. It’s Amazing kicks off with one of those songs.
“Ambitigeddon” bobs up and down with disjointed rhythms. The musical effect is akin to ska, punk, and a dollop of rock colliding in a potential sonic mishmash. Listeners are spared such a fate, however, and the musicians play the song at a hard-nosed midtempo clip that generates surprising momentum. Out of control ambition isn’t an unusual topic for popular songwriting and Shapiro’s aware of that, so he sets his sights higher.
“Am Now” has a low-key beginning and builds from there, but it’s a different template than we’ve heard in the earlier songs. He switches out the electric guitars from before for their acoustic counterpart and, even at its height, they create a much more intimate mood. It’s appropriate given the song’s apparent personal subject matter.
“More Memories” masks itself as a conventional love song but it’s a thin veneer. This tortured paean to Shapiro’s relationship with the almighty dollar has moments where you’ll laugh and others when Shapiro doesn’t pull any punches. The arrangement is especially effective here, specifically Alex Posmontier’s piano. “New Newz” has punk rock roots but, of course, Brian Shapiro and his fellow musicians express that style with an unique spin. Cataloging the names of modern major media platforms is just the start as he goes even further before wrapping it up.
Self-examination is the order of the day for “All of the Time”. Shapiro is a bit ruthless on himself but the near-hushed quality of important passages and Behn Gillence’s vibraphone sweetens what might otherwise be an unhappier listening experience. There’s some self-reflection heard in the penultimate cut “Take-N-Make” but Shapiro tempers it by looking outside of himself much more than before. It’s a look at one aspect of the human condition and uses a slow march-like tempo with great results.
The album closes on a strong note with “Savor”. It isn’t part of every song, but Gallice’s vibraphone is one of the defining elements of the album’s sound. The track is a final reminder of many things but take note to hear the clear thought and feelings placed in each of the album’s ten songs. This isn’t a release that coasts anywhere. The Brian Shapiro Band’s It’s Amazing bears all the hallmarks of a top flight talent.