Musical confession – I’ve become a lyric guy. It’s typically what I drill down when giving an album a first listen, occasionally at the expense of taking in the full range of music found on the work. However, while taking in April Lapell’s latest, Getaway, I felt myself drawn into the instrumentation far more than just about anything else I’ve heard over the past year.
The Canadian musician wields no fewer than six instruments on Getaway, including her voice, which lives somewhere between Natalie Merchant and Suzanne Santo. The album starts with “Gonna Be Leaving”, which begins with Lapell’s somber acoustic guitar and adds her sleepy, dream-like vocals, reminding a lover that she’s going, and “the odds are even…you’re gonna be leaving, too.” The very brief “Ask Me No Questions” (most of the tracks are under 3½ minutes) brings in lap steel from Christine Bougie, and “Devil In The Deep” features Rachael Cardiello’s viola sitting in for the titular demon in a tune closer to rock than most of the album. “Leningrad” is all Lapell on vocals and piano telling her tale of a fleeting relationship: “Just wanted a pretty face/A damsel in disgrace/I come from a better place /And I don’t have far to fall.”
One of the centerpieces of the album, “Sparrow For A Heart”, features trumpet work from Rebecca Hennessey. It’s the story of a young woman who has remained untethered throughout her life, and her only wish upon death is, “When I am old would you carry my bones to the blood red sea/Don’t let the earthworms and carrion crows get the best of me.” Leaving is a consistent theme on the record – Lapell has settled in Toronto, and she’s writing to leave her itinerant lifestyle behind (as much as any musician possibly can in 2019, anyway).
Lapell still has a little running to do, however. “Halfway To Mexico”, with a gentle country arrangement, anticipates the end of an already-fleeting relationship: “Make me no promises when we say our goodbyes.” And “Runaway”, centered around Lapell’s voice and accordion, speeds up as the song progresses and she repeats, “Do you really run away?” She’s leaving. Are you following?
“Shape of A Mountain” wraps the album, and it finds Lapell questioning her own restless motion. Blending her voice and guitar with Aline Homzy’s violin and Peggy Lee’s cello, she describes a lifetime of emotional wandering – “My blood makes the sound of the ocean/Crashing waves weep on the shore” – while realizing the limitations of this lifestyle – “And the tides are forever in motion/With nowhere to go.” Itinerance has its cost.
While following Lapell’s resolution to some sort of happiness is a worthy enough reason to listen to the album, the true strength of Getaway is in the arrangements. Even when a choice of instrument seems odd, it all blends perfectly. This is not only a credit to Lapell’s songwriting and the producing, recording, and mixing work performed by Chris Stringer, but to the roster of amazing musicians enlisted by Lapell and Stringer: Christine Bougie (lap steel), Lisa Bozikovic (piano and vocals), Rachael Cardiello (viola and vocals), Joe Ernewein (pedal steel), Daniel Fortin (upright and electric bass), Rebecca Hennessey (trumpet), Aline Homzy (violin), Peggy Lee (cello), Jake Oelrichs (drums and vocals), Tom Richards (trombone), Dana Sipos (vocals), and Chris Stringer (“additional sounds”).