Sometimes it’s good to step out from behind a band name. Joe Lapinski has been at the music game for some time, most notably in Bronx Cheerleader and Woodshed Orchestra. But for this outing, Lapinski has gone solo, and he’s proven to be quite the instrumentalist at the very least, given the long list after his name on his Bandcamp page.
Lapinski doesn’t go to this completely alone, of course. He’s got a healthy list of supporting players, but they complement him well; it feels like work orchestrated by one man, which it is. He also doesn’t limit himself to a specific genre, though the record certainly leans heavily toward folk.
The opener, which is also the title track, acts like an overture for what to come. The song takes many left turns, starting with a throwback 60s vibe before and ending with some very tasty electric guitar work. It also introduces three of the star musicians on this album. First there’s Dave Clark, who is also Lapinski’s Woodshed Orchestra bandmate, on drums and percussion. There’s also a great pair of backup vocalists in Laurel Minnes and Whitney Peterson.
From “Rock/Mountain” up to “Kite Meets Blu Skye,” The Beauty Beyond sounds like a folk record, though with interesting surprises along the way. The beginning of the folk chunk, “Rock/Mountain,” is exceedingly catchy thanks to the vocal call-and-response between Lapinski on one side and Minnes and Peterson on the other. “Go Drive off the Pier” shows off Lapinski’s interesting lyricism, such as this pair of lines: “From nowhere but somewhere I ride on waves/Blue sky above pillowed by puppy greys.” It sounds like something straight out of Lewis Carroll.
And just when the album is in danger of getting too comfortable in its mellow folk vibes, an electric guitar greets the opening of the excellent “Find Your Home” to bring some much-needed energy back into the fold. The song is a little reminiscent of Joel Plaskett, but with a lot more pedal steel.
“‘Round and ‘Round” continues the celebratory atmosphere of the previous song, and “Morning” wraps up everything in a bow nicely with its pleasant instrumental tones.
Lapinski is an interesting musician thanks to his wide range of pursuits, as well as just the simple fact that you don’t hear too many men who sing in upper register. He and Paul Linklater would probably have much to talk about. In fact, they should just go form a duo right now, it would rule.
Top Tracks: “Rock/Mountain”; “Find Your Home”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)