Prolific teenage singer, pianist and songwriting sensation, Rebecca Lappa self-released her third album, Avant Garden in June to great local praise. Hailing from Edmonton, Canada, Lappa has been nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award twice in the last two years and is quickly making quite a name for herself by also gaining airplay on several well-regarded Canadian radio stations. Rebecca’s piano-led folk pop sound incorporates elements of jazz, blues and classical music and her beautiful and surprisingly powerful voice recalls that of Tori Amos and fellow Canadian, Sarah McLachlan. The title for her new album, Avant Garden is a clever play on words that appropriately describes her unique, avant-garde yet accessible art-pop sound. For the recording of her latest album, her musical vision was fleshed out in the studio by producer Alana Levandoski and a host of skillful musicians, including drummer Sandro Dominelli, guitarist Murray Pulver and bassist Michael Lent, among other guests.
In addition to her new album, she has also written and performed in her own folk opera, The Earl, based on the Tennyson poem “The Sisters”, which premiered earlier this year with a successful four-night run during Edmonton’s Nextfest and she has also penned six songs for Alison Neuman’s musical, Searching For Normal.
The lovely, “Soaring Mountain” opens the album with twinkling piano and soaring guitar swells and also provides the perfect introduction to Lappa’s gorgeous, wise-beyond-her-years singing voice. Even though she could put on a clinic with her well-trained and composed voice, she doesn’t sound clinical, as she sings with soul and conviction. Standout track “Porcelain Doll” follows with a stomping, danceable beat that pulses throughout the song along with a playful piano riff and a catchy, sing-along chorus that easily shines through as the album’s most accessible and radio-ready moment. Next, the emotional “Oriana” is built upon a lilting, operatic chorus and features Pulver’s spindly yet melodic extended guitar runs that are reminiscent of Nels Cline’s fancy fretwork with Wilco. “Run Jack Run” is a short little fantasy-filled tune with swirls of cello, hammered piano notes, Lappa’s dark, nursery rhyme-like lyrics and bouncy vocal cadence that perfectly showcases her theatrical sense. The slower, ballad-esque “Let Them Eat Cake” is adorned with close-knit harmonies, aching cello and a lilting, Jewel-like vocal performance on the pretty, Marie Antoinette-inspired track. As her ability as a playwright proves, Lappa is a great storyteller and “Senior Delateau” is further proof, weaving a tragic story of love and regret that has Broadway written all over it. In the same vein, “The Witch” is loosely based on the story of Hansel And Gretel and bolstered by Lappa and producer and singer Alana Levandoski’s gorgeously angelic harmonies on the chorus for another standout Broadway-like moment. On “Welcome To Wayne”, Rebecca adopts a smoky and confident Fiona Apple-like croon that fits in nicely alongside the waltzing, baroque chamber-pop arrangement. The song also won her an award in the Sonic Youth Category at the 2013 Calgary Folkfest Songwriting Contest. The nine-song album closes out on with a pleasing little love song, “I Love You” and its sweet lyrical sentiment and flowing cello melodies that will leave you in a dreamy, love-struck mood.
Rebecca Lappa is an impressive and truly unique young talent, with a beautiful voice and a diverse set of songwriting skills that belies her age. The best part though, is that she is only going to get better with age. To that end, her stellar new album, Avant Garden should help her to gain a wider audience beyond the Canadian border with her sophisticated yet instantly memorable pop-leaning melodies and captivating arrangements.
Artist: Rebecca Lappa
Album: Avant Garden
Reviewed by: Justin Kreitzer
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars