Brian Shapiro sets himself a deceptively far-reaching artistic mandate. The second album It’s Amazing from Shapiro and his band isn’t content with serving whatever fans they’ve garnered with more of the same. These are uncertain times, so I wouldn’t blame them if they did. Shapiro and drummer Ben Kutner-Duff, bassist/guitarist Ed Moman, and bassist/guitarist Rory Flynn are plowing straight ahead. Anyone who values popular artists taking risks will find a ton to admire on this album.
The writer Graham Green wrote that childhood is an author’s bank balance they draw from all their working lives. I believe Brian Shapiro likely agrees with the statement. The ten songs on It’s Amazing make no attempt to document the literal circumstances of his personal life and cast their net wider. There’s immense vulnerability present in these songs, however, and it’s obvious Shapiro hopes to find a personal resolution as well as entertain his audience. His troubled childhood gives him a deep degree of empathy for other’s suffering and searching. You hear it in these songs, in different ways depending on the track.
There’s also social commentary as well. “Ambitigeddon”, however, applies to the personal just as much as the universal. Never naming a particular individual, office, or institution gives the song another surplus of power to draw from. I hear an underrated rambunctiousness in this song, both vocally and musically, reminiscent of great rock and roll bands though this band isn’t that democratic. The track demands listeners take it as it is rather than pretending or pandering.
Shapiro turns his songwriting eye more inward with “Am Now”. His lyrics invoke dark periods and you don’t mind hearing them, however, because the final result is affirmative instead of dispiriting. None of the album’s songs have a Pollyanna attitude, but Shapiro is the rare songwriter who doesn’t romanticize despair. There is even some suggestion of Shapiro spoofing the classic love song with the track “More Memories”.
The lyrics explore his dysfunctional relationship with money and cycle through a laundry list of warring emotions. I believe Shapiro knows he has something special, or at least truly unusual with this song, and treats it accordingly with a vocal that invokes all of its intended humor, horror, and rueful resignation. Alex Posmontier’s piano provides Shapiro with a capable musical partner here as elsewhere on the release.
Vibraphone is one of the crucial instruments for It’s Amazing. It certainly isn’t the most common of additions to popular songwriting and I’d love to hear what inspired its inclusion, but Shapiro uses it to excellent effect. It strikes a calming melodic note in compositions that balance some of the less than mainstream aspects of Shapiro’s writing.
It helps “All of the Time” shine brighter than most. It’s a spiritual cousin of sorts to the earlier “Am Now” though it delves into a different area of Shapiro’s life and psyche. He establishes a mood from the beginning of It’s Amazing and sustains it without apparent strain through its conclusion. The album’s final track comes with “Savor” and it certainly shares many of the overall thematic concerns you hear arising throughout his work. Trust in an artist isn’t something reviewers or music fans discuss but there’s no doubting that the Brian Shapiro Band earns ours. There’s no artifice here. Intangible authenticity leaps out of the speakers when I hear these songs and I believe every word and note.
Donate to IndiePulse Music Magazine’s Academic and Music Education Scholarship Program HeartBeat4Kids
IndiePulse Music Magazine creates Scholarships to help Youth In Need of assistance to complete their educational goals and stay in school.