Call it prairie noir, or Canadiana desert rock: Abigail Lapell sings haunting, gorgeous modern folk songs, mapping epic natural landscapes and deeply intimate, personal territory. The Toronto vocalist, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist has released two acclaimed solo albums. Hide Nor Hair, her Chris Stringer-produced sophomore LP, won a Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Album of the Year in 2017.
Getaway, Lapell’s ambitious third release due out February 1, 2019 via Coax Records / Outside, is bookended by songs about leaving. LP opener and first single “Gonna Be Leaving” echoes with the irony of someone who threatens to leave yet never goes—and the certainty that, sooner or later, every relationship will end.
“This is one of my favourite tunes on the album, and one of the most fun to play live,” says Lapell. “The song started as a guitar part that I couldn’t get out of my head, this insistent line that keeps circling back on itself, doubled by the vocals in a sing-song rhyme all about the contradictions of couplehood: the push and pull of independence versus commitment, trying to make it work even against the odds, or trying to leave and not being able to.
At the heart of these anxieties, to me, is the idea of impermanence in any relationship (one way or another, one partner will ultimately be the first to exit). I recently got engaged, so these themes have been on my mind! I love how the band builds on that simple, recurring melodic idea with a heartbeat rhythm section, tiptoeing piano, and overlapping harmonies that rise to a halting finale, rich with ambivalence.”
For Getaway, Lapell spent time in the mountains, digging through her vault of unreleased material, and ended up with dozens of road songs to choose from. Working again with Stringer at Toronto’s Union Sound studio, she expanded her pool of collaborators, recruiting Christine Bougie (Bahamas) on lap steel, Dan Fortin (Bernice) on bass, and Jake Oelrichs (Run With The Kittens) on drums. Trumpeter and composer Rebecca Hennessy plays on “Sparrow for a Heart”—her trumpet swirling in a sublime duet with Lapell’s synth flute and electric guitar—and also arranged horn parts for band workout “Little Noise”, with Tom Richards on trombone. The latter, a subtle nod to the ‘Me Too’ movement, may even inspire listeners to get up and dance. The album also features longtime collaborators Lisa Bozikovic on piano and vocals, Dana Sipos on vocals, Rachael Cardiello on viola, and Joe Ernewein on pedal steel.
Getaway sounds fuller than Lapell’s previous records, her signature howl and warm, melodic guitar chops matched by a bluesy rhythm section. Building gang vocals on “Devil in the Deep” culminate in the entire band crying ‘Hallelujah, Amen’. Lapell and Stringer also incorporate otherworldly sounds, including an X-Files-like keyboard part on “UFO Song”, which tells the tale of a close encounter in rural Saskatchewan.
Yet there are also spacious piano interludes (“Leningrad”), and even an accordion tune (“Runaway”), that nod to how Lapell sounds playing solo. One of the record’s most striking moments is just acoustic guitar and two voices: Lapell and Sipos, captured live in a room together, harmonizing overtop plucked strings on the transfixing “Down by the Water”.
Closing the album, the other song about leaving, “Shape of a Mountain”, written in the Alberta Rockies during a Banff Centre artist residency, sets majestic scenes of wanderlust over cinematic strings (played by Vancouver cellist Peggy Lee, a Banff collaborator, and Toronto violinist Aline Homzy). The result is Lapell’s most eclectic and confident album to date.
Since the release of 2017’s Hide Nor Hair, Lapell has been on the road, touring across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and playing at festivals like Pop Montreal, Mariposa, In The Dead Of Winter, Tiny Lights, and Folk On The Rocks. Watch for more tour dates from Lapell in the near future.
01 Gonna Be Leaving
02 Ask Me No Questions
03 Devil In The Deep
05 Sparrow For A Hearth
06 Halfway To Mexico
07 UFO Song
09 Down By The Water
10 Little Noise
11 Shape Of A Mountain