Since I was a little boy, I’ve gone deer hunting every fall with my father, up in northern Ontario where I grew up. It only happened once that I can remember, but my saddest memory of it is the time that we lost a wounded deer. We spent hours scouring the leaf-covered ground with flashlights in the dusk and into the evening. After a short blood trail, we lost track of it, and we couldn’t find, as they say, “hide nor hair”. As I listened to Toronto singer/songwriter Abigail Lapell’s new album, which happens to be called Hide Nor Hair, I kept thinking of those memories, especially in the albums most nocturnal and lost feeling moments.
Though the album is not specifically about searching for a lost animal, there is a sense of exploration and wanderlust throughout, especially in the first half. “Hostage Town” is an unsettled folk-rock song about looking for a place to belong during the G20 riots in Toronto in 2010, when the city’s gone wild and you’re not sure if you’re the hunter or the hunted.
“Night Bird & Morning Bird” is a swooping, diving number that sounds like two birds chasing each other back and forth across the planet’s terminator line. It also makes the best use of Lapell’s collaborators, Rachael Cardiello on viola and vocals, Joe Ernewein on bass, Jessica Moore on backup vocals, producer Chris Stringer, and some first-class whistle solos from percussionist Benjamin Hermann.
The most memorable track is also the one that’s most dissimilar from the rest, the piano ballad “Jordan”. With not much more than some subtle strings and an ominous, determined piano, the song shows off Abigail’s gift for a lasting lyrical image, where her dreams ride in “All night like galloping thunder, night horses on the run.”
As the album come to a close, it resigns itself to the fact that you have to go back home again someday, whether or not you ever found what you set out looking for. But before you do, you can have one last howl at the moon, as she does on the mournful lullaby “Full Moon”.
Top Tracks: “Hostage Town”; “Jordan”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*