Avi Kaplan — Floating on a Dream
Funny how an artist can surprise you when you’re unfamiliar with his background. Turns out, Avi Kaplan was a member of the reality show-winning vocal group Pentatonix (I try to stay away from reading the press materials until after consuming the music). After leaving the group in 2017 and releasing an EP (I’ll Get By) and a single (“Song for the Thankful”), Kaplan has his first full album ready, the Shooter Jennings-produced Floating On A Dream, a record far removed from a cappella but still showing off the vocal chops that first put Kaplan in the (shared) spotlight a decade ago.
Kaplan, a native of Visalia, California, has traded in the glossy Hollywood sound for something more apropos of Death Valley – a dusty, meditative desert drive of an album. And, on the first track, he bids a no-doubt goodbye to his past. “First Place I Go,” the piano- and steel-driven opener, has Kaplan ready to establish his independence – “‘Cause I’m gonna leave you out in the cold/I’m gonna pray that door stays closed.” It’s a forceful intro to the new and improved portion of Kaplan’s career and, like on most of the album, his multi-tracked vocals provide a range far beyond his much-loved basso profondo. Jennings, meanwhile, pairs the singer with a steady mix of steel guitar, piano, violin and the occasional synth, painting the landscape that Kaplan’s songs inhabit.
Kaplan continues the theme of pushing forward through several tracks, including the title track and “I’m Only Getting Started,” a haunting song that gains intensity as the singer’s defiance grows – “I’m bleeding now but my fear is gone/I’m hollowed out but I carry on.” More delicate emotions are found in “On My Way,” where Kaplan expresses his love for the family he misses while he’s out making music – “I got your blood and I got your name/If I got your will I should be OK.”
But the overwhelming theme is, indeed, change. Joy Williams – who’s undergone a few changes of her own in recent years – joins Kaplan on “All Is Well,” and the two trade verses on the hazards of forging a new path – “It’s the burn and wash away/It’s the change and it’s the same.”
Moving on – from a successful vocal group, from a comfortable style, from your family and your home – ain’t easy, but Kaplan has started carving his own way forward.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “All Is Well” – Williams’ ethereal vocals (my favorite work of hers since The Civil Wars, and she does everything well) are a perfect counter to Kaplan’s bottom-of-the-Earth bass.
Floating On A Dream was produced by Shooter Jennings, recorded and engineered by David Spreng, mixed by Trina Shoemaker and mastered by Pete Lyman. Additional musicians on the album include Aubrey Richmond (violin), Chris Masterson (guitars), Daniel Ellsworth (piano, organ, synthesizer), Jamie Douglass (drums, percussion), John Schreffler, Jr. (pedal steel), Joy Williams (vocals), Kaleb Jones (guitar), Smith Curry (pedal steel) and Ted Russell Kamp (bass).
Go here to order Floating On A Dream (out May 20): https://avikaplan.shop.redstarmerch.com/product/XZCOMBOAK10/floating-on-a-dream-limited-edition-vinyl-signed-print?cp=null
Check out tour dates here: https://www.avikaplanofficial.com/tour